Saturday, 5 January 2013

Mass extinction of lizards and snakes at the Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary – via Herp Digest

Nicholas R. Longricha,1,
Bhart-Anjan S. Bhullarb, and
Jacques A. Gauthiera
Author Affiliations
Edited by David Jablonski, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, and approved November 8, 2012 (received for review July 6, 2012) 
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences vol. 109 no. 52
Nicholas R. Longrich,  21396–21401

The Cretaceous–Paleogene (K-Pg) boundary is marked by a major mass extinction, yet this event is thought to have had little effect on the diversity of lizards and snakes (Squamata). A revision of fossil squamates from the Maastrichtian and Paleocene of North America shows that lizards and snakes suffered a devastating mass extinction coinciding with the Chicxulub asteroid impact. Species-level extinction was 83%, and the K-Pg event resulted in the elimination of many lizard groups and a dramatic decrease in morphological disparity. Survival was associated with small body size and perhaps large geographic range. The recovery was prolonged; diversity did not approach Cretaceous levels until 10 My after the extinction, and resulted in a dramatic change in faunal composition. The squamate fossil record shows that the end-Cretaceous mass extinction was far more severe than previously believed, and underscores the role played by mass extinctions in driving diversification.
1To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail:

Author contributions: N.R.L. designed research; N.R.L., B.-A.S.B., and J.A.G. performed research; J.A.G. contributed new reagents/analytic tools; N.R.L., B.-A.S.B., and J.A.G. analyzed data; and N.R.L. wrote the paper. 

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