Size Evolution and Stochastic Models: Explaining Ostracod Size through Probabilistic Distributions
Thursday, 18 December 2014
The biovolume of animals has functioned as an important benchmark for measuring evolution throughout geologic time. In our project, we examined the observed average body size of ostracods over time in order to understand the mechanism of size evolution in these marine organisms. The body size of ostracods has varied since the beginning of the Ordovician, where the first true ostracods appeared. We created a stochastic branching model to create possible evolutionary trees of ostracod size. Using stratigraphic ranges for ostracods compiled from over 750 genera in the Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology, we calculated overall speciation and extinction rates for our model. At each timestep in our model, new lineages can evolve or existing lineages can become extinct. Newly evolved lineages are assigned sizes based on their parent genera. We parameterized our model to generate neutral and directional changes in ostracod size to compare with the observed data. New sizes were chosen via a normal distribution, and the neutral model selected new sizes differentials centered on zero, allowing for an equal chance of larger or smaller ostracods at each speciation. Conversely, the directional model centered the distribution on a negative value, giving a larger chance of smaller ostracods. Our data strongly suggests that the overall direction of ostracod evolution has been following a model that directionally pushes mean ostracod size down, shying away from a neutral model. Our model was able to match the magnitude of size decrease. Our models had a constant linear decrease while the actual data had a much more rapid initial rate followed by a constant size. The nuance of the observed trends ultimately suggests a more complex method of size evolution. In conclusion, probabilistic methods can provide valuable insight into possible evolutionary mechanisms determining size evolution in ostracods.