Ecology

Diversity Persists

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Science  20 Jul 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6092, pp. 271
DOI: 10.1126/science.337.6092.271-c
CREDIT: © BLICKWINKEL/ALAMY

Marine ecosystems are characterized by high tropical and low polar biodiversity, and are correlated with water temperature. Fossil evidence hints at the persistence of such gradients for over 270 million years, but little is known about the details. Yasuhara et al. have chosen to examine the fossil record for North Atlantic zooplankton, because the fossils are abundant and the record is the most complete of any marine taxon. Times slices spanning the past 3 million years showed that tropical-high and polar-low diversity persisted throughout this period, with highest diversities during the mid-Pliocene. It seems that the species that have gone extinct since the Pliocene had narrower thermal tolerances than modern species and were selected out by the glaciation.

Ecol. Lett. 15, 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2012.01828.x (2012).

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