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Phanerozoic survivors: Actinopterygian evolution through the Permo-Triassic and Triassic-Jurassic mass extinction events

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)348-362
Number of pages15
Issue number2
Early online date2 Feb 2018
DateAccepted/In press - 20 Dec 2017
DateE-pub ahead of print - 2 Feb 2018
DatePublished (current) - Feb 2018


Actinopterygians (ray-finned fishes) successfully passed through four of the big five mass extinction events of the Phanerozoic, but the effects of these crises on the group are poorly understood. Many researchers have assumed that the Permo-Triassic mass extinction (PTME) and end-Triassic extinction (ETE) had little impact on actinopterygians, despite devastating many other groups. Here, two morphometric techniques, geometric (body shape) and functional (jaw morphology), are used to assess the effects of these two extinction events on the group. The PTME elicits no significant shifts in functional disparity while body shape disparity increases. An expansion of body shape and functional disparity coincides with the neopterygian radiation and evolution of novel feeding adaptations in the Middle-Late Triassic. Through the ETE, small decreases are seen in shape and functional disparity, but are unlikely to represent major changes brought about by the extinction event. In the Early Jurassic, further expansions into novel areas of ecospace indicative of durophagy occur, potentially linked to losses in the ETE. As no evidence is found for major perturbations in actinopterygian evolution through either extinction event, the group appears to have been immune to two major environmental crises that were disastrous to most other organisms.

    Research areas

  • Actinopterygii, mass extinctions, Permo-Triassic, end-Triassic extinction, morphometrics, macroevolution

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