Environmental Patterns in the Origins of Higher Taxa: The Post-Paleozoic Fossil Record

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Science  28 Jun 1991:
Vol. 252, Issue 5014, pp. 1831-1833
DOI: 10.1126/science.252.5014.1831


Of the 26 well-preserved orders of benthic marine invertebrates that have originated since the beginning of the Mesozoic, 20 first appear in onshore environments. This distribution differs significantly from that shown by well-preserved genera and families, and by the 16 poorly preserved orders. These discordances suggest that the pattern of preferential onshore origination is not an artifact of preservation or collection and that the origin of higher taxa cannot be regarded as a simple extrapolation of rates and patterns at lower levels. The onshore environment fosters production or enhances survivorship of species that initiate lineages tending to accumulate suites of derived characters and that thus are ultimately afforded high taxonomic rank.