Global shifts in species richness have shaped carpet shark evolution

Published on
21 October 2021

Global shifts in species richness have shaped carpet shark evolution

Bret M Boyd, Jason C Seitz


Background: The evolutionary processes that shape patterns of species richness in marine ecosystems are complex and may differ between organismal groups. There has been considerable interest in understanding the evolutionary processes that led to marine species richness being concentrated in specific geographical locations. In this study we focus on the evolutionary history of a group of small-to-medium sized sharks known as carpet sharks. While a few carpet shark species are widespread, the majority of carpet shark species richness is contained within a biodiversity hotspot at the boundary of the Indian and Pacific oceans. We address the significance of this biodiversity hotspot in carpet shark evolution and speciation by leveraging a rich fossil record and molecular phylogenetics to examine the prehistoric distribution of carpet sharks.

Results: We find that carpet sharks species richness was greatest in shallow seas connected to the Atlantic Ocean during the Late Cretaceous, but that there was a subsequent loss of biodiversity in Atlantic waters. Fossil evidence from sites in close geographic proximity to the current center of carpet shark diversity are generally restricted to younger geologic strata.

Conclusions: From this data we conclude that (1) center of carpet shark biodiversity has shifted during the last 100 million years, (2) carpet sharks have repeatedly dispersed to nascent habitat (including to their current center of diversity), and (3) the current center of carpet shark biodiversity conserves lineages that have been extirpated from this prehistoric range and is a source of new carpet shark species. Our findings provide insights into the roles of marine biodiversity hotspots for higher-tropic level predators and the methods applied here can be used for additional studies of shark evolution.

BMC Ecol Evol. 2021 Oct 21;21(1):192. DOI: 10.1186/s12862-021-01922-6


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