The main stage of recovery after the end-Permian mass extinction: taxonomic rediversification and ecologic reorganization of marine level-bottom communities during the Middle Triassic.PeerJ. 2021; 9:e11654.P
The recovery of marine life from the end-Permian mass extinction event provides a test-case for biodiversification models in general, but few studies have addressed this episode in its full length and ecological context. This study analyses the recovery of marine level-bottom communities from the end-Permian mass extinction event over a period of 15 Ma, with a main focus on the previously neglected main phase during the Middle Triassic. Our analyses are based on faunas from 37 lithological units representing different environmental settings, ranging from lagoons to inner, mid- and outer ramps. Our dataset comprises 1562 species, which belong to 13 higher taxa and 12 ecological guilds. The diversification pattern of most taxa and guilds shows an initial Early Triassic lag phase that is followed by a hyperbolic diversity increase during the Bithynian (early middle Anisian) and became damped later in the Middle Triassic. The hyperbolic diversity increase is not predicted by models that suggest environmental causes for the initial lag phase. We therefore advocate a model in which diversification is primarily driven by the intensity of biotic interactions. Accordingly, the Early Triassic lag phase represents the time when the reduced species richness in the wake of the end-Permian mass extinction was insufficient for stimulating major diversifications, whereas the Anisian main diversification event started when self-accelerating processes became effective and stopped when niche-crowding prevented further diversification. Biotic interactions that might drive this pattern include interspecific competition but also habitat construction, ecosystem engineering and new options for trophic relationships. The latter factors are discussed in the context of the resurgence of large carbonate platforms, which occurred simultaneously with the diversification of benthic communities. These did not only provide new hardground habitats for a variety of epifaunal taxa, but also new options for grazing gastropods that supposedly fed from microalgae growing on dasycladaceans and other macroalgae. Whereas we do not claim that changing environmental conditions were generally unimportant for the recovery of marine level-bottom communities, we note that their actual role can only be assessed when tested against predictions of the biotic model.