Cretaceous environmental changes led to high extinction rates in a hyperdiverse beetle family.

Kergoat, G.J., Bouchard, P., Clamens, A.-L., Abbate, J.L., Jourdan, H., Jabbour-Zahab, R., Genson, G., Soldati, L., and Condamine, F.L. (2014). "Cretaceous environmental changes led to high extinction rates in a hyperdiverse beetle family.", BMC Evolutionary Biology, 14(Article 220), pp. 1-13. doi : 10.1186/s12862-014-0220-1  Access to full text


Background: As attested by the fossil record, Cretaceous environmental changes have significantly impacted the diversification dynamics of several groups of organisms. A major biome turnover that occurred during this period was the rise of angiosperms starting ca. 125 million years ago. Though there is evidence that the latter promoted the diversification of phytophagous insects, the response of other insect groups to Cretaceous environmental changes is still largely unknown. To gain novel insights on this issue, we assess the diversification dynamics of a hyperdiverse family of detritivorous beetles (Tenebrionidae) using molecular dating and diversification analyses. Results: Age estimates reveal an origin after the Triassic-Jurassic mass extinction (older than previously thought), followed by the diversification of major lineages during Pangaean and Gondwanan breakups. Dating analyses indicate that arid-adapted species diversified early, while most of the lineages that are adapted to more humid conditions diversified much later. Contrary to other insect groups, we found no support for a positive shift in diversification rates during the Cretaceous; instead there is evidence for an 8.5-fold increase in extinction rates that was not compensated by a joint increase in speciation rates. Conclusions: We hypothesize that this pattern is better explained by the concomitant reduction of arid environments starting in the mid-Cretaceous, which likely negatively impacted the diversification of arid-adapted species that were predominant at that time.

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