Abstract

The ammonoid order Prolecanitida constitutes a relatively small (43 genera, approximately 250 species) but long-ranging lineage (Lower Carboniferous-Triassic, approximately 108 m.y.), which narrowly survived the P/Tr extinctions and provided the stock from which were derived all later Mesozoic ammonoids. Prolecanitids were a minority among Late Paleozoic ammonoids, which were dominated by the Goniatitida, and showed many features that set them far apart from their contemporaries, including (1) long-term, gradual changes in shell geometry (W-D-S); (2) the most strongly constrained morphospace of any Paleozoic ammonoids examined to date; (3) an eight-fold increase in mean suture complexity (three times that of Pennsylvanian goniatitids); (4) high correlations between shell geometry, shell and septal thickness, and suture complexity; (5) short body chambers and, as a consequence, high aperture orientations; (6) indications that cameral liquid may have been used for buoyancy control; and (7) a genus longevity that averaged 14.7 m.y. compared with 5.7 m.y. in Upper Carboniferous goniatitids, and that appears to have been unrelated to suture complexity. Prolecanitids showed a pervasive tendency to increase suture complexity (in the clade as a whole as well as within subclades and in more than 90 percent of ancestor-descendant genera), thus arguing a case for a driven complexity trend. The uniqueness of the prolecanitids calls into question whether they and their Mesozoic descendants, ceratites and ammonites, were strictly analogous to Paleozoic goniatites.

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