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Biol Lett. Aug 23, 2010; 6(4): 544–547.
Published online Jan 27, 2010. doi:  10.1098/rsbl.2009.1024
PMCID: PMC2936204
Links between global taxonomic diversity, ecological diversity and the expansion of vertebrates on land
Sarda Sahney,1* Michael J. Benton,1 and Paul A. Ferry2
1Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, Wills Memorial Building, Queen's Road, Bristol BS8 1RJ, UK
2Eikonworks, 805 3rd Street, Canmore, Alberta, Canada, T1W 2J2
*Author for correspondence (s.sahney/at/
Received December 9, 2009; Accepted January 3, 2010.
Tetrapod biodiversity today is great; over the past 400 Myr since vertebrates moved onto land, global tetrapod diversity has risen exponentially, punctuated by losses during major extinctions. There are links between the total global diversity of tetrapods and the diversity of their ecological roles, yet no one fully understands the interplay of these two aspects of biodiversity and a numerical analysis of this relationship has not so far been undertaken. Here we show that the global taxonomic and ecological diversity of tetrapods are closely linked. Throughout geological time, patterns of global diversity of tetrapod families show 97 per cent correlation with ecological modes. Global taxonomic and ecological diversity of this group correlates closely with the dominant classes of tetrapods (amphibians in the Palaeozoic, reptiles in the Mesozoic, birds and mammals in the Cenozoic). These groups have driven ecological diversity by expansion and contraction of occupied ecospace, rather than by direct competition within existing ecospace and each group has used ecospace at a greater rate than their predecessors.
Keywords: biodiversity, diversity, ecology, expansion, tetrapods, vertebrates
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