Skip to content Skip to navigation

Article: Calibrated diversity, tree topology and the mother of mass extinctions: the lesson of temnospondyls

Publication: Palaeontology
Volume: 51
Part: 6
Publication Date: November 2008
Page(s): 1261 1288
Author(s): Marcello Ruta and Michael J. Benton
Addition Information

How to Cite

RUTA, M., BENTON, M. J. 2008. Calibrated diversity, tree topology and the mother of mass extinctions: the lesson of temnospondyls. Palaeontology51, 6, 1261–1288.

Online Version Hosted By

Wiley Online Library
Get Article: Wiley Online Library [Pay-to-View Access] |


Three family-level cladistic analyses of temnospondyl amphibians are used to evaluate the impact of taxonomic rank, tree topology, and sample size on diversity profiles, origination and extinction rates, and faunal turnover. Temnospondyls are used as a case study for investigating replacement of families across the Permo-Triassic boundary and modality of recovery in the aftermath of the end-Permian mass extinction. Both observed and inferred (i.e. tree topology-dependent) values of family diversity have a negligible effect on the shape of the diversity curve. However, inferred values produce both a flattening of the curve throughout the Cisuralian and a less pronounced increase in family diversity from Tatarian through to Induan than do observed values. Diversity curves based upon counts of genera and species display a clearer distinction between peaks and troughs. We use rarefaction techniques (specifically, rarefaction of the number of genera and species within families) to evaluate the effect of sampling size on the curve of estimated family-level diversity during five time bins (Carboniferous; Cisuralian; Guadalupian–Lopingian; Early Triassic; Middle Triassic–Cretaceous). After applying rarefaction, we note that Cisuralian and Early Triassic diversity values are closer to one another than they are when the observed number of families is used; both values are also slightly higher than the Carboniferous estimated diversity. The Guadalupian–Lopingian value is lower than raw data indicate, reflecting in part the depauperate land vertebrate diversity from the late Cisuralian to the middle Guadalupian (Olson's gap). The time-calibrated origination and extinction rate trajectories plot out close to one another and show a peak in the Induan, regardless of the tree used to construct them. Origination and extinction trajectories are disjunct in at least some Palaeozoic intervals, and background extinctions exert a significant role in shaping temnospondyl diversity in the lowermost Triassic. Finally, species-, genus-, and family trajectories consistently reveal a rapid increase in temnospondyl diversity from latest Permian to earliest Triassic as well as a decline near the end of the Cisuralian. However, during the rest of the Cisuralian family diversity increases slightly and there is no evidence for a steady decline, contrary to previous reports.
PalAss Go! URL: | Twitter: Share on Twitter | Facebook: Share on Facebook | Google+: Share on Google+