Starting from embryonic (protoconch-ammonitella) and early juvenile shells, which are indistinguishable at the species level, growth curves of Osperleioceras from the Reynesi Subzone (Upper Toarcian) of the Causses Basin (Aveyron, France) show a continuous radiating range of correlated variation in dimensional and ornamental characters, such as involution, whorl compression, rib strength and rib density. This covariation pattern can be observed among single-horizon assemblages, as well as during individual ontogenetic development.
The existence of a continuous intergradational series of shells, ranging from stout coarsely ribbed to smooth suboxycone morphologies, rules out functional or ecological selectivity to explain this non-random variability pattern. The complex interdependence of shape and sculpture can be simulated by a model in which sculpture intensity depends on mantle curvature [Guex, 1999].
The expression of covariation in subadult specimens since the base of Upper Toarcian reveals a rise in variability, concomitant with a size decrease, both contemporaneous with environmental instability. It developed in successive bursts from a fairly long low variability period spanning the whole Middle Toarcian.