Sea surface temperature contributes to marine crocodylomorph evolution

Jeremy E Martin*, Romain Amiot, Christophe Lécuyer, Michael J Benton

*Corresponding author for this work

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

56 Citations (Scopus)
422 Downloads (Pure)


During the Mesozoic and Cenozoic, four distinct crocodylomorph lineages colonized the marine environment. They were conspicuously absent from high latitudes, which in the Mesozoic were occupied by warm-blooded ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs. Despite a relatively well-constrained stratigraphic distribution, the varying diversities of marine crocodylomorphs are poorly understood, because their extinctions neither coincided with any major biological crises nor with the advent of potential competitors. Here we test the potential link between their evolutionary history in terms of taxic diversity and two abiotic factors, sea level variations and sea surface temperatures (SST). Excluding Metriorhynchoidea, which may have had a peculiar ecology, significant correlations obtained between generic diversity and estimated Tethyan SST suggest that water temperature was a driver of marine crocodylomorph diversity. Being most probably ectothermic reptiles, these lineages colonized the marine realm and diversified during warm periods, then declined or became extinct during cold intervals.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4658
Number of pages7
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 2014


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