Ecological interactions on macroevolutionary time scales: clams and brachiopods are more than ships that pass in the night

Lee Hsiang LiowTrond Reitan and Paul G. Harnik in Ecology Letters. Open access.


Competition among organisms has ecological and evolutionary consequences. However, whether the consequences of competition are manifested and measureable on macroevolutionary time scales is equivocal. Marine bivalves and brachiopods have overlapping niches such that competition for food and space may occur. Moreover, there is a long-standing debate over whether bivalves outcompeted brachiopods evolutionarily, because brachiopod diversity declined through time while bivalve diversity increased. To answer this question, we estimate the origination and extinction dynamics of fossil marine bivalve and brachiopod genera from the Ordovician through to the Recent while simultaneously accounting for incomplete sampling. Then, using stochastic differential equations, we assess statistical relationships among diversification and sampling dynamics of brachiopods and bivalves and five paleoenvironmental proxies. None of these potential environmental drivers had any detectable influence on brachiopod or bivalve diversification. In contrast, elevated bivalve extinction rates causally increased brachiopod origination rates, suggesting that bivalves have suppressed brachiopod evolution.

Article first published online: 20 August 2015

Tags: Ecology Letters;
Published Aug. 24, 2015 1:47 PM - Last modified Aug. 24, 2015 1:47 PM