Climatic drivers of latitudinal variation in Late Triassic tetrapod diversity

Emma M Dunne*, Alexander Farnsworth, Sarah E. Greene, Daniel J Lunt, Richard J Butler

*Corresponding author for this work

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

29 Citations (Scopus)
90 Downloads (Pure)


The latitudinal biodiversity gradient (LBG), the increase in biodiversity from the poles to the equator, is one of the most widely recognized global macroecological patterns, yet its deep time evolution and drivers remain uncertain. The Late Triassic (237–201 Ma), a critical interval for the early evolution and radiation of modern tetrapod groups (e.g. crocodylomorphs, dinosaurs, mammaliamorphs), offers a unique opportunity to explore the palaeolatitudinal patterns of tetrapod diversity since it is extensively sampled spatially when compared with other pre‐Cenozoic intervals, particularly at lower palaeolatitudes. Here, we explore palaeolatitudinal patterns of Late Triassic tetrapod diversity by applying sampling standardization to comprehensive occurrence data from the Paleobiology Database (PBDB). We then use palaeoclimatic model simulations to explore the palaeoclimatic ranges occupied by major tetrapod groups, allowing insight into the influence of palaeoclimate on the palaeolatitudinal distribution of these groups. Our results show that Late Triassic tetrapods generally do not conform to a modern‐type LBG; instead, sampling‐standardized species richness is highest at mid‐palaeolatitudes. In contrast, the richness of pseudosuchians (crocodylians and their relatives) is highest at the palaeoequator, a pattern that is retained throughout their subsequent evolutionary history. Pseudosuchians generally occupied a more restricted range of palaeoclimatic conditions than other tetrapod groups, a condition analogous to modern day reptilian ectotherms, while avemetatarsalians (the archosaur group containing dinosaurs and pterosaurs) exhibit comparatively wider ranges, which is more similar to modern endotherms, such as birds and mammals, suggesting important implications for the evolution of thermal physiology in dinosaurs.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 17 Nov 2020


  • Late Triassic
  • diversity
  • latitudinal biodiversity gradient
  • Tetrapoda
  • thermal physiology
  • general circulation palaeoclimatic model


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