Climate processes shape the evolution of populations and species leading to the assembly of modern biotas - examples along a continuum from shallow to deep time
Monday, 15 December 2014
California experiences droughts, so lets begin with the effects of streamflow variation on population evolution in a coastal lagoon-specialist endangered fish, the tidewater goby. Streamflow controls the closing and opening of lagoons to the sea determining genetic isolation or gene flow. Here evolution is a function of habitat preference for closing lagoons. Other estuarine fishes, with different habitat preferences, differentiate at larger spatial scales in response to longer glacio-eustatic control of estuarine habitat. Species of giraffes in Africa are a puzzle. Why do the ranges of large motile, potentially interbreeding, species occur in contact each other without hybridization? The answer resides in the timing of seasonal precipitation. Although the degree of seaonality of climate does not vary much between species, the timing of precipitation and seasonal "greenup" does. This provides a selective advantage to reproductive isolation, as reproductive timing can be coordinated in each region with seasonal browse availability for lactating females. Convective rainfall in Africa follows the sun and solar intensity is influenced by the precession cycle such that more extensive summer rains fell across the Sahara and South Asia early in the Holocene, this may also contribute to the genetic isolation and speciation of giraffes and others savanna species. But there also appears to be a correlation with rarity (CITES designation) of modern wetland birds, as the dramatic drying of the late Holocene landscape contributes to this conservation concern. Turning back to the West Coast we find the most diverse temperate coastal fauna in the world, yet this diversity evolved and is a relict of diversity accumulation during the apex of upwelling in the late Miocene, driven by the reglaciation of Antarctica. Lastly we can see that the deep-sea evolution is broadly constrained by the transitions from greenhouse to icehouse worlds over the last 90 mya as broad periods of warm climate coincide with episodic anoxia of the deep sea, influencing the evolutionary patterns seen in the fossil record and constraining the deep sea-vent faunas to be relatively young, having evolved/assembled from shallow water taxa late in the Cenozoic. Thus numerous discrete climate episodes yield the assembly of modern faunas.