Ectotherm diversity through time: the interplay of sampling biases, environmental drivers and macroevolution

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Terri Cleary

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Start Year

2014 (Cohort 1)

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PhD Project
PhD Title

Ectotherm diversity through time: the interplay of sampling biases, environmental drivers and macroevolution

Research Theme

Past Life and Environments

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Lepidosauria consists of the clades Squamata and Rhynchocephalia. The latter currently consists of a single New Zealand species. The former, containing lizards, snakes, and amphisbaenians, consists of >9000 living species found across most of the world. In the past both clades were widespread, with a complicated history of diversification and extinction. This project aims to document diversity for terrestrial lepidosaurs by creating a database of occurrences from the literature and the Paleobiology Database. Sampling-corrected taxic richness curves will be constructed to show global patterns of diversity through time, using both shareholder quorum subsampling and modelling approaches. These will be compared to major climatic (e.g. Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum) and faunal turnover (e.g. Cretaceous-Palaeogene extinction) events to examine potential causal links to patterns. The data can be used to identify other potential diversity drivers (changes in sea level etc.) and assess elements of bias in the fossil record. It may be possible to identify local faunal turnover in response to smaller scale events. Understanding changes in past lepidosaur diversity with regards to environmental factors can help us to predict the response of modern taxa to current climate change, and will also illuminate the evolutionary history of an important component of the modern biota.

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