Abstract

Shell ornamentation in modern oceans increases toward the tropics in conjunction with an equatorward increase in shell-breaking predation. Latitudinal gradients in antipredatory ornamentation were previously documented for Devonian brachiopods. We examined the latitudinal distribution of shell ornamentation in Tournaisian, Visean, and Namurian articulate brachiopods to test the hypothesis that the latitudinal gradient in antipredatory ornamentation was present in the Carboniferous. We found a statistically significant latitudinal ornamentation gradient, which was most pronounced in the Tournaisian, when the latitudinal temperature gradient was most steep. These results support the hypothesis that a latitudinal gradient in defensive morphology occurred as a result of the mid-Paleozoic increase in predation. Although the mid-Paleozoic and late Mesozoic intervals of predator-prey escalation may have differed in dynamics and intensity, both episodes produced adaptations in prey morphology that varied along a latitudinal gradient.

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