Past and future decline of tropical pelagic biodiversity.Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2020 06 09; 117(23):12891-12896.PN
A major research question concerning global pelagic biodiversity remains unanswered: when did the apparent tropical biodiversity depression (i.e., bimodality of latitudinal diversity gradient [LDG]) begin? The bimodal LDG may be a consequence of recent ocean warming or of deep-time evolutionary speciation and extinction processes. Using rich fossil datasets of planktonic foraminifers, we show here that a unimodal (or only weakly bimodal) diversity gradient, with a plateau in the tropics, occurred during the last ice age and has since then developed into a bimodal gradient through species distribution shifts driven by postglacial ocean warming. The bimodal LDG likely emerged before the Anthropocene and industrialization, and perhaps ∼15,000 y ago, indicating a strong environmental control of tropical diversity even before the start of anthropogenic warming. However, our model projections suggest that future anthropogenic warming further diminishes tropical pelagic diversity to a level not seen in millions of years.