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16 March 2023 Dispersals from the West Tethys as the source of the Indo-West Pacific diversity hotspot in comatulid crinoids
James G. Saulsbury, Tomasz K. Baumiller
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Conspicuous centers of biodiversity are frequently attributed to local conditions that promote speciation or resistance to extinction, but recent diversification studies indicate this mode of explanation might not be very general, so it may be fruitful to revisit the role of dispersal in concentrating biodiversity. Here we consider the processes underlying the marine diversity hotspot in the Indo-West Pacific among comatulid crinoids, suspension-feeding echinoderms conspicuous on modern tropical reefs. We used ancestral-range reconstruction on a phylogeny of extant crinoids, assembled a new occurrence database of fossil comatulids and interrogated it with probabilistic preservational models, and developed a morphological character matrix to estimate the relationships among living and fossil comatulids. Ancestral-range reconstruction on a phylogeny of extant comatulids recovers an origin outside the Indo-Pacific and elevated dispersal into it. A new occurrence database records the comatulid clade spreading out gradually from origin in the Early Jurassic of the West Tethys. Comatulids do not appear in their modern hotspot until the Oligocene, and taphonomic analyses show these results cannot be explained solely as a result of inadequate sampling in Asia and Oceania. Finally, phylogenetic analyses demonstrate that deeply nested crown-group comatulids had originated before the clade became well established in the East Tethys, implying many independent dispersals into the modern hotspot. These consilient results suggest a biodiversity hotspot that owes its existence to dispersals out of the ancient West Tethys rather than to elevated in situ diversification.

James G. Saulsbury and Tomasz K. Baumiller "Dispersals from the West Tethys as the source of the Indo-West Pacific diversity hotspot in comatulid crinoids," Paleobiology 49(1), 39-52, (16 March 2023).
Accepted: 9 June 2022; Published: 16 March 2023
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