Abstract

The end-Permian mass extinction is commonly portrayed not only as a massive biodiversity crisis but also as the time when marine benthic faunas changed from the Paleozoic Fauna, dominated by rhynchonelliform brachiopod taxa, to the Modern Fauna, dominated by gastropod and bivalve taxa. After the end-Permian mass extinction, scenarios involving the Mesozoic Marine Revolution portray a steady increase in numerical dominance by these benthic molluscs as largely due to the evolutionary effects of an “arms race.” We report here a new global paleoecological database from study of shell beds that shows a dramatic geologically sudden earliest Triassic takeover by bivalves as numerical dominants in level-bottom benthic marine communities, which continued through the Early Triassic. Three bivalve genera were responsible for this switch, none of which has any particular morphological features to distinguish it from many typical Paleozoic bivalve genera. The numerical success of these Early Triassic bivalves cannot be attributed to any of the well-known morphological evolutionary innovations of post-Paleozoic bivalves that characterize the Mesozoic Marine Revolution. Rather, their ability to mount this takeover most likely was due to the large extinction of rhynchonelliform brachiopods during the end-Permian mass extinction and aided by their environmental distribution and physiological characteristics that enabled them to thrive during periods of oceanic and atmospheric stress during the Permian/Triassic transition.

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