Physical drivers of mosasaur evolution

M.J. Polcyn, L.L. Jacobs, R. Araújo, A.S. Schulp, O. Matues

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    Mosasaurs are marine squamates with a 32.5. million-year history from their appearance at 98. Ma to their extinction at the K-Pg boundary (65.5. Ma). Using a database of 43 generic and 94 species-level taxa, we compare the taxonomic diversity and patterns of morphological disparity in mosasaurs with sea level, sea surface temperature, and stable carbon isotope curves for the Upper Cretaceous to explore factors that may have influenced their evolution. No single factor unambiguously accounts for all radiations, diversification, and extinctions; however, the broader patterns of taxonomic diversification and morphological disparity point to niche differentiation in a "fishing up" scenario under the influence of "bottom-up" selective pressures. The most likely driving force in mosasaur evolution was high productivity in the Late Cretaceous, driven by tectonically controlled sea levels and climatically controlled ocean stratification and nutrient delivery. When productivity collapsed at the end of the Cretaceous, coincident with bolide impact, mosasaurs became extinct. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)17-27
    Number of pages11
    JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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