Molecular clocks indicate turnover and diversification of modern coleoid cephalopods during the Mesozoic Marine Revolution

Alastair Tanner, Dirk Fuchs, Inger Eleanore winkelmann, M Thomas P Gilbert, Sabrina Pankey, Angela M. Ribeiro, Kevin Kocot, Kenneth Halanych, Todd H Oakley, Rute R. Da Fonseca, Davide Pisani, Jakob Vinther

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Coleoid cephalopod molluscs comprise squids, cuttlefish and octopuses, and represent nearly the entire diversity of modern cephalopods. Sophisticated adaptations such as the use of colour for camouflage and communication, jet propulsion, and the ink sac highlight the unique nature of the group. Despite these striking adaptations, there are clear parallels in ecology between coleoids and bony fishes. The coleoid fossil record is limited, however, hindering confident analysis of the tempo and pattern of their evolution. Here we use a molecular dataset (180 genes, ~36,000 amino acids) of 26 cephalopod species to explore the phylogeny and timing of cephalopod evolution. We show that crown cephalopods diverged in the Silurian-Devonian, while crown coleoids had origins in the latest Palaeozoic. While the deep-sea vampire squids and dumbo octopuses have ancient origins extending to the Early Mesozoic Era, 242 ± 38 million years ago (Ma), incirrate octopuses and the decabrachian coleoids (ten-armed squid) diversified in the Jurassic Period. These divergence estimates highlight the modern diversity of coleoid cephalopods emerging in the Mesozoic Marine Revolution, a period that also witnessed the radiation of most ray-finned fish groups in addition to several other marine vertebrates. This suggests that that the origin of modern cephalopod biodiversity was contingent on ecological competition with marine vertebrates.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20162818
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1850
Early online date1 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017


  • cephalopoda
  • molecular phylogenetics
  • phylogenomics
  • molecular clocks

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