Vision and the diversification of Phanerozoic marine invertebrates

Journal article

Publication Details

Author(s): Aberhan M, Nuernberg S, Kießling W
Journal: Paleobiology
Publisher: Paleontological Society
Publication year: 2012
Volume: 38
Journal issue: 2
Pages range: 187-204
ISSN: 0094-8373


Identifying biological traits that promote evolutionary success is fundamental for understanding biodiversity dynamics and for assessing the evolutionary response of organisms to global change. We tested the hypothesis that image-forming eyes have contributed to the diversification of taxa in the geological past. Using fossil occurrences in the Paleobiology Database, we analyzed the diversity and evolutionary rates of more than 17,000 Phanerozoic genera of marine invertebrates living on or above the shallow-water seafloor according to their visual capabilities. Analysis of the complete data set shows a peak in the proportional diversity of sighted genera early in the Phanerozoic, and their continuance at a relatively low and stable level after the Ordovician. As an explanation of this pattern we suggest that selection pressure to develop eyes rose in the Cambrian, and that behavioral constraints had a balancing effect thereafter. In contrast to the pooled data, a clade-level study of those subgroups that contain both sighted and blind genera revealed thatin trilobites, all epifaunal bivalves, pectinoid bivalves, gastropods, and echinodermssighted genera diversified more strongly than blind genera. This difference is controlled by significantly raised extinction rates of blind genera. These more finely resolved patterns support the hypothesis that good vision is a key trait that promoted preferential diversification. © 2012 The Paleontological Society. All rights reserved.

FAU Authors / FAU Editors

Kießling, Wolfgang Prof. Dr.
Lehrstuhl für Paläoumwelt

External institutions with authors

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

How to cite

Aberhan, M., Nuernberg, S., & Kießling, W. (2012). Vision and the diversification of Phanerozoic marine invertebrates. Paleobiology, 38(2), 187-204.

Aberhan, Martin, Sabine Nuernberg, and Wolfgang Kießling. "Vision and the diversification of Phanerozoic marine invertebrates." Paleobiology 38.2 (2012): 187-204.


Last updated on 2018-11-08 at 00:46