Origin of high tropical diversity: a test using cheilostome bryozoans - Project overview
Late Lunch Talk by Emanuela Di Martino
The shallow Indo-West Pacific (IWP) is the most diverse tropical sea, but when, how fast and why this great diversity arose is unknown. To address this challenge, a new project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust at The Natural History in London, will be undertaken to document the tempo and mode of Neogene changes in diversity of cheilostome bryozoans from key areas of the IWP and tropical western Atlantic (TWA). Cheilostomes are a major component of marine biodiversity today and have an excellent fossil record. Moreover, their great skeletal complexity allows rigorous species-level taxonomy based on morphology, and their colony forms vary depending on life history and ecology. Molecular phylogenies suggest that the IWP diversity maximum is geologically recent. Existing fossil data are consistent with this conclusion: diversity was similar between the IWP and TWA in the Middle Miocene, but the subsequent IWP fossil record is inadequate for comparison with well-documented patterns from the TWA. In the course of this project we will: 1) reexamine whether cheilostome diversity was truly similar in the TWA and IWP in the Middle Miocene; (2) document regional patterns of cheilostome diversity through time to determine the timing and tempo of subsequent changes in diversity; and (3) compare regional changes in diversity to assess the relative contribution of global versus regional environmental change as the primary drivers of diversity patterns today.