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Feeding ecology has shaped the evolution of modern sharks

Mohamad Bazzi, Nicolás E. Campione, Benjamin P. Kear, Catalina Pimiento Orcid Logo, Per E. Ahlberg

Current Biology, Volume: 31, Issue: 23, Pages: 1 - 11

Swansea University Author: Catalina Pimiento Orcid Logo

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Abstract

Sharks are iconic predators in today’s oceans, yet their modern diversity has ancient origins. In particular, present hypotheses suggest that a combination of mass extinction, global climate change, and competition has regulated the community structure of dominant mackerel (Lamniformes) and ground (...

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Published in: Current Biology
ISSN: 0960-9822
Published: Elsevier BV 2021
Online Access: Check full text

URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa58375
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Abstract: Sharks are iconic predators in today’s oceans, yet their modern diversity has ancient origins. In particular, present hypotheses suggest that a combination of mass extinction, global climate change, and competition has regulated the community structure of dominant mackerel (Lamniformes) and ground (Carcharhiniformes) sharks over the last 66 million years. However, while these scenarios advocate an interplay of major abiotic and biotic events, the precise drivers remain obscure. Here, we focus on the role of feeding ecology using a geometric morphometric analysis of 3,837 fossil and extant shark teeth. Our results reveal that morphological segregation rather than competition has characterized lamniform and carcharhiniform evolution. Moreover, although lamniforms suffered a long-term disparity decline potentially linked to dietary “specialization,” their recent disparity rivals that of “generalist” carcharhiniforms. We further confirm that low eustatic sea levels impacted lamniform disparity across the end-Cretaceous mass extinction. Adaptations to changing prey availability and the proliferation of coral reef habitats during the Paleogene also likely facilitated carcharhiniform dispersals and cladogenesis, underpinning their current taxonomic dominance. Ultimately, we posit that trophic partitioning and resource utilization shaped past shark ecology and represent critical determinants for their future species survivorship.
Keywords: Lamniformes; Carcharhiniformes; geometric morphometrics; dental disparity; feeding ecology; environmental change; ecomorphology
College: College of Science
Issue: 23
Start Page: 1
End Page: 11