Abstract

The rise of durophagous predators during the Paleozoic represents an ecological constraint imposed on sessile marine fauna. In crinoids, it has been suggested that increasing predation pressure drove the spread of adaptations against predation. Damage to a crinoid's arms from nonlethal predation varies as a function of arm branching pattern. Here, using a metric for resilience to predation (“expected arm loss,” EAL), we test the hypothesis that the increase in predation led to more predation-resistant arm branching patterns (lower EAL) among Paleozoic crinoids. EAL was computed for 230 genera of Paleozoic crinoids and analyzed with respect to taxonomy and time. The results show significant variability among taxa. Camerates, especially monobathrids, display a pattern of increasingly convergent and predation-resistant arm morphologies from the Ordovician through the Devonian, with no significant change during the Mississippian. In contrast, the mean EAL among cladids follows no overall trend through the Paleozoic. Regenerating arms are known to be significantly more common in camerates than in other Paleozoic taxa; if regeneration is taken as a proxy for nonlethal interactions with durophagous predators, this indicates that nonlethal predation occurred more often among camerates throughout the Early and Middle Paleozoic. In addition, frequency of injury among camerates is inversely correlated with EAL and positively correlated with infestation by parasitic snails. From this we conclude that decreasing EAL signals a selective pressure in favor of resistance to grazing predation in camerates but not in other subclasses before the Mississippian, with an apparent relaxation in this constraint after the late Devonian extinctions.

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