Abstract

Significant warming of Earth's climate in the near term seems increasingly likely. If significant enough, this climatic regime could, in the long term, come to resemble previous greenhouse intervals in earth history. Consequently, analysis of the fossil record during periods of extreme warmth may provide important lessons for species biology, including biogeography, in a much warmer world. To explore this issue, we analyzed the biogeographic response of 63 molluscan species to the long-term global warmth in the Late Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway (WIS) of North America, using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to quantitatively measure changes in range size and distribution throughout this interval. We specifically considered the role that geographic range size played in mediating extinction resistance and invasion potential of these WIS species. We found no relationship between geographic range size and survivorship. However, endemic species with small range sizes were more likely to become invasive. Finally, mollusks did not experience a poleward shift in range out of the tropics during this warm regime. To the extent that these patterns are representative, and the WIS and taxa considered constitute a reasonable ancient analogue to a warmer future world, these results suggest that some biogeographic “rules” may not prevail under greenhouse conditions of long-term, equable warmth. They also suggest that other factors beyond geographic range size, including distinctive niche characteristics, may play quite important roles in species survival and invasion potential. This potentially complicates predictions regarding the future responses of extant species to long-term warming.

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