Bayesian analyses indicate bivalves did not drive the downfall of brachiopods following the Permian-Triassic mass extinction

Zhen Guo, Joseph T Flannery-Sutherland, Michael J Benton*, Zhong-Qiang Chen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Certain times of major biotic replacement have often been interpreted as broadly competitive, mediated by innovation in the succeeding clades. A classic example was the switch from brachiopods to bivalves as major seabed organisms following the Permian-Triassic mass extinction (PTME), ~252 million years ago. This was attributed to competitive exclusion of brachiopods by the better adapted bivalves or simply to the fact that brachiopods had been hit especially hard by the PTME. The brachiopod-bivalve switch is emblematic of the global turnover of marine faunas from Palaeozoic-type to Modern-type triggered by the PTME. Here, using Bayesian analyses, we find that unexpectedly the two clades displayed similar large-scale trends of diversification before the Jurassic. Insight from a multivariate birth-death model shows that the extinction of major brachiopod clades during the PTME set the stage for the brachiopod-bivalve switch, with differential responses to high ocean temperatures post-extinction further facilitating their displacement by bivalves. Our study strengthens evidence that brachiopods and bivalves were not competitors over macroevolutionary time scales, with extinction events and environmental stresses shaping their divergent fates.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5566
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 9 Sept 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful to contributors of PBDB. We thank D. Silvestro for valuable discussions and assistance with PyRate. Y.P. Sun and S. Lee are thanked for providing important literature. The School of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol is acknowledged for hosting Z.G. as a visiting student for one year. This research was funded by NSFC grants (41930322, 41821001) to Z.-Q. C. and NERC grant (NE/I027630/1) and ERC Advanced Grant (788203 Innovation) to M.J.B. Z.G. was supported by China Scholarship Council (No. 202106410098) and Fundamental Research Funds for National Universities, China University of Geosciences (Wuhan). J.F.-S. was supported by NERC GW4+ DTP studentship (S100065-138/123).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, Springer Nature Limited.


  • Animals
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Extinction, Biological
  • Bivalvia
  • Invertebrates
  • Time Factors


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