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Graptolite faunas exhibited strong biogeographical differentiation during the Early Palaeozoic, particularly in the Ordovician. Skevington recognized two major faunal provinces, the high to mid palaeolatitude ‘Atlantic Province’ and the low-palaeolatitude ‘Pacific Province’. Subsequent workers have generally accepted this pattern of graptolite distribution, but the controls on this pattern have been the subject of considerable debate. Two competing models have emerged: a surface water temperature model and a depth stratification model. It is likely that the some of the physical and chemical oceanic factors that vary with latitude may also vary in a similar way along an onshore to offshore transect. Hence, it may be that both depth and surface temperature play an important role in biogeographical differentiation. Biogeography also played a critical role in the evolutionary history of graptoloids. Important examples include the origination of axonophorans in deep, offshore environments from isograptid and pseudisograptid ancestors and their subsequent migration into shallow water regions; the replacement of the Diplograptina by Neograptina in the low palaeolatitudes during the Late Ordovician extinction event; and the origination of expansograptids in the ‘Atlantic’ Province as shallow water endemics followed by their worldwide dispersal into the oceanic biofacies.

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