Dynamic evolutionary change in post-Paleozoic echinoids and the importance of scale when interpreting changes in rates of evolution
This week in the macroevolution journal club we will read a paper by Hopkins and Smith newly published (2015) in PNAS: Dynamic evolutionary change in post-Paleozoic echinoids and the importance of scale when interpreting changes in rates of evolution.
How ecological and morphological diversity accrues over geological time has been much debated by paleobiologists. Evidence from the fossil record suggests that many clades reach maximal diversity early in their evolutionary history, followed by a decline in evolutionary rates as ecological space fills or due to internal constraints. Here, we apply recently developed methods for estimating rates of morphological evolution during the post-Paleozoic history of a major invertebrate clade, the Echinoidea. Contrary to expectation, rates of evolution were lowest during the initial phase of diversification following the Permo-Triassic mass extinction and increased over time. Furthermore, although several subclades show high initial rates and net decreases in rates of evolution, consistent with “early bursts” of morphological diversification, at more inclusive taxonomic levels, these bursts appear as episodic peaks. Peak rates coincided with major shifts in ecological morphology, primarily associated with innovations in feeding strategies. Despite having similar numbers of species in today’s oceans, regular echinoids have accrued far less morphological diversity than irregular echinoids due to lower intrinsic rates of morphological evolution and less morphological innovation, the latter indicative of constrained or bounded evolution. These results indicate that rates of evolution are extremely heterogenous through time and their interpretation depends on the temporal and taxonomic scale of analysis.