The latitudinal diversity gradient of tetrapods across the Permo-Triassic mass extinction and recovery interval.Proc Biol Sci. 2020 06 24; 287(1929):20201125.PB
The decline in species richness from the equator to the poles is referred to as the latitudinal diversity gradient (LDG). Higher equatorial diversity has been recognized for over 200 years, but the consistency of this pattern in deep time remains uncertain. Examination of spatial biodiversity patterns in the past across different global climate regimes and continental configurations can reveal how LDGs have varied over Earth history and potentially differentiate between suggested causal mechanisms. The Late Permian-Middle Triassic represents an ideal time interval for study, because it is characterized by large-scale volcanic episodes, extreme greenhouse temperatures and the most severe mass extinction event in Earth history. We examined terrestrial and marine tetrapod spatial biodiversity patterns using a database of global tetrapod occurrences. Terrestrial tetrapods exhibit a bimodal richness distribution throughout the Late Permian-Middle Triassic, with peaks in the northern low latitudes and southern mid-latitudes around 20-40° N and 60° S, respectively. Marine reptile fossils are known almost exclusively from the Northern Hemisphere in the Early and Middle Triassic, with highest diversity around 20° N. Reconstructed terrestrial LDGs contrast strongly with the generally unimodal gradients of today, potentially reflecting high global temperatures and prevailing Pangaean super-monsoonal climate system during the Permo-Triassic.