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The role of pyroclastic volcanism in Ordovician diversification

Joseph P. Botting
Joseph P. Botting
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EQ, UK (
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January 01, 2002


Pyroclastic volcanism has been tentatively correlated with Ordovician faunal diversification, but it is unclear whether the volcanism itself or associated tectonic effects were more influential. Elevated nutrient flux from uplifted areas has been widely discussed, but the link between enhanced productivity and diversification is unclear. Ecosystem com-partmentalization due to irregular topography was probably significant, but it is debatable whether this was sufficient to explain the entire diversification. This paper introduces a further volcanic process, which may have been more significant than these established hypotheses, although it is emphasized that all relevant factors acted in combination. Recent studies of the local ecological effects of ash-fall have revealed dramatic post-depositional plankton and benthic blooms associated with overturning of a stratified water mass. The data are consistent through all studied sections from the Builth Inlier, Central Wales, while deeper-water sediments showed plankton blooms only. Repeated bloom events over localized dysaerobic shelf areas may have produced temporary benthic ‘islands‘, enhanced genetic heterogeneity within affected regions, and increased speciation rates. In order to maximize bloom intensity (and possible effects on evolution), this process requires widespread pyroclastic volcanism combined with extensive shelf areas with well-developed stratification. The hypothesis potentially allows explanation of the differential rates of evolution between different groups, particularly the decoupled planktic-benthic patterns. A preliminary test using Welsh Basin ostracodes is presented, with predictions for the global database results.

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Geological Society, London, Special Publications

Palaeobiogeography and Biodiversity Change: the Ordovician and Mesozoic–Cenozoic Radiations

J. A. Crame
J. A. Crame
British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, UK
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A. W. Owen
A. W. Owen
University of Glasgow, UK
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Geological Society of London
ISBN electronic:
Publication date:
January 01, 2002




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