Ordovician and Silurian polychaete diversity and biogeography
Mats E. Eriksson, Olle Hints, Hannelore Paxton, Petra Tonarová, 2013. "Ordovician and Silurian polychaete diversity and biogeography", Early Palaeozoic Biogeography and Palaeogeography, D. A. T. Harper, T. Servais
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Eunicidan polychaetes formed a significant part of Early Palaeozoic marine invertebrate communities, as shown by the abundance and diversity of scolecodonts (polychaete jaws) in the fossil record. In this study we summarize the early radiation and biodiversity trends and discuss the palaeobiogeography of these fossils. The oldest (latest Cambrian–Early Ordovician) representatives had primitive, usually symmetrical, placognath/ctenognath type jaw apparatuses. The first more advanced taxa, possessing labidognath-type jaw apparatuses or placognath apparatuses with compound maxillae, are first recorded in the Middle Ordovician. The most significant increase in generic diversity occurred in the Darriwilian, when many common taxa appeared and diversified. The Ordovician and Silurian scolecodont occurrences allow some palaeobiogeographical units and distribution patterns to be explored and outlined. The most robust data presently at hand derive from successions in Baltica and Laurentia. That information, together with new records from other palaeocontinents, reveals a wide distribution for the most frequent and species-rich genera and families, similar to the biogeographical patterns of extant polychaetes. Like many other benthic and pelagic fossil groups, scolecodont-bearing polychaetes show an increased cosmopolitan character in the Silurian as compared with the Ordovician. Species-level endemism appears to be relatively common, inferring a potential for scolecodonts as biogeographical tools in the future.
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The Early Palaeozoic was a critical interval in the evolution of marine life on our planet. Through a window of some 120 million years, the Cambrian Explosion, Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event, End Ordovician Extinction and the subsequent Silurian Recovery established a steep trajectory of increasing marine biodiversity that started in the Late Proterozoic and continued into the Devonian. Biogeography is a key property of virtually all organisms; their distributional ranges, mapped out on a mosaic of changing palaeogeography, have played important roles in modulating the diversity and evolution of marine life. This Memoir first introduces the content, some of the concepts involved in describing and interpreting palaeobiogeography, and the changing Early Palaeozoic geography is illustrated through a series of time slices. The subsequent 26 chapters, compiled by some 130 authors from over 20 countries, describe and analyse distributional and in many cases diversity data for all the major biotic groups plotted on current palaeogeographic maps. Nearly a quarter of a century after the publication of the ‘Green Book’ (Geological Society, London, Memoir 12, edited by McKerrow and Scotese), improved stratigraphic and taxonomic data together with more accurate, digitized palaeogeographic maps, have confirmed the central role of palaeobiogeography in understanding the evolution of Early Palaeozoic ecosystems and their biotas.