Darwin, os primeiros animais desenvolveram ecossistemas complexos antes da explosão cambriana!

quarta-feira, maio 18, 2022

Metacommunity analyses show an increase in ecological specialisation throughout the Ediacaran period

Rebecca Eden,Andrea Manica,Emily G. Mitchell 

Published: May 17, 2022


A group of Ediacaran specimens of Fractofusus and Plumeropriscum from the "E" surface, Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve, NewFoundland, Canada. 

Credit: Charlotte G. Kenchington


The first animals appear during the late Ediacaran (572 to 541 Ma); an initial diversity increase was followed reduction in diversity, often interpreted as catastrophic mass extinction. We investigate Ediacaran ecosystem structure changes over this time period using the “Elements of Metacommunity Structure” framework to assess whether this diversity reduction in the Nama was likely caused by an external mass extinction, or internal metacommunity restructuring. The oldest metacommunity was characterised by taxa with wide environmental tolerances, and limited specialisation or intertaxa associations. Structuring increased in the second oldest metacommunity, with groups of taxa sharing synchronous responses to environmental gradients, aggregating into distinct communities. This pattern strengthened in the youngest metacommunity, with communities showing strong environmental segregation and depth structure. Thus, metacommunity structure increased in complexity, with increased specialisation and resulting in competitive exclusion, not a catastrophic environmental disaster, leading to diversity loss in the terminal Ediacaran. These results reveal that the complex eco-evolutionary dynamics associated with Cambrian diversification were established in the Ediacaran.


Citation: Eden R, Manica A, Mitchell EG (2022) Metacommunity analyses show an increase in ecological specialisation throughout the Ediacaran period. PLoS Biol 20(5): e3001289. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3001289

Academic Editor: Pedro Jordano, Estacion Biologica de Doñana CSIC, SPAIN

Received: May 1, 2021; Accepted: March 29, 2022; Published: May 17, 2022

Copyright: © 2022 Eden et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Data Availability: All data and code is available in the supplementary materials. The data used in this paper has been modified from previously published data and are publicly available on figshare doi: 10.6084/m9.figshare.13664105.

Funding: This work was funded by a Natural Environment Research Council Independent Research Fellowship NE/S014756/1 to EGM. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.