Geerat J. Vermeij
Paleontological Research 15 (2), 54-61, (1 June 2011) https://doi.org/10.2517/1342-8144-15.2.054
KEYWORDS: Cretaceous, escalation, innovation, productivity, tectonics
The Phanerozoic history of life is characterized by at least seven protracted, stepwise increases in predation, herbivory, bioturbation, bioerosion, and control of nutrient cycles by organisms. During the Mesozoic era, there are at least two episodes, one concentrated in the Late Triassic to Early Jurassic interval, and the other beginning in the mid-Cretaceous, about 100 Ma. This second Mesozoic revolution witnessed the origin of 19 important innovations related to competition and predation, as well as the enormous expansion of diversity of angiosperms, fungi, and insects on land and of gastropods and fishes in the sea. The great excess of diversity on land, which dates to this revolution, owes its origins to the vast radiations of plants and their associated pests, dispersers, and pollinators. These radiations, as well as the increased emphasis on rapid locomotion and consumption in the sea, were made possible by a three- to four-fold increase in the photosynthetic capacity of phylogenetically derived eudicot angiosperms beginning about 100 Ma. Higher productivity throughout the biosphere made modes of life that require high inputs of energy and power feasible, and brought about renewed enemy-related escalation. The Mesozoic revolution modernized the global biota and set the stage for additional episodes of escalation during the Cenozoic era. The ultimate cause triggering all these episodes is the tectonic and erosion-related introduction of nutrients, together with warm conditions and increasing levels of oxygen in the atmosphere.