Abstract

Interpretations of morphologic radiations and macroevolutionary patterns are dependent on a priori choices of taxonomic and geographic scales of study. The results of disparity analysis at varying taxonomic (species and genus) and geographic (regional, biofacies, and community) scales are examined in a study of Ordovician though Early Silurian crinoids. Using discrete morphologic characters, we examined the disparity of 421 crinoids from 65 Laurentian biofacies. Crinoid disparity differs when analyzed at the regional and biofacies levels. Regardless of fluctuations in regional crinoid disparity, average within-biofacies disparity was static throughout the Ordovician, deviating only during the Silurian because of the proliferation of the morphologically aberrant myelodactylid crinoids. The choice of taxonomic level does not have an effect at the biofacies level. However, at the regional level, the two taxonomic scales (genus and species) can produce different results because of variation in the number of species per genus through time and the amount of morphologic variation within individual genera. Weighting disparity by abundance provides a metric combining morphology and community structure. Average weighted disparity at the community level showed patterns similar to that of the biofacies-level disparity curve, but this metric has a greater degree of variation between biofacies. Biofacies with a low ratio of weighted to unweighted disparity display the distinctive community structure (based on aerosol filtration theory) that is often reported in crinoid assemblages.

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