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Not armour, but biomechanics, ecological opportunity and increased fecundity as keys to the origin and expansion of the mineralized benthic metazoan fauna
Cohen, B.L. (2005). Not armour, but biomechanics, ecological opportunity and increased fecundity as keys to the origin and expansion of the mineralized benthic metazoan fauna. Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 85(4): 483-490
In: Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. Academic Press: London; New York. ISSN 0024-4066, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keywords
    Benthos; Cambrian; Fauna; Metamorphosis; Mineralization; Marine

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  • Cohen, B.L.

Abstract
    This paper offers a new biotic interaction hypothesis for the Cambrian 'explosion' of mineralized, benthic, metazoan diversity. It proposes that organic-mineral composite structures (e.g. shells and muscle lever-arms) originated in Proterozoic lineages of primary larva-like, but reproductively competent, pelagic bilaterians because mineralization was both mechanically and energetically favourable, not because it provided armour against predation. Increased strength and rigidity of composite structures permitted growth to sizes incompatible with a continued pelagic existence, while the increased density resulting from massive mineralization facilitated settlement into, and stability in, a nutrient-rich, Proterozoic benthic zone that offered new ecological opportunities. Because evolutionary success is recognized by the formation of recoverable fossils, which requires large, enduring populations, successful lineages are those that responded to the new opportunities by achieving broad niche occupancy through the evolution of metamorphosis to larger, mineralized 'adult' body forms with more efficient food-collecting apparatus and higher fecundity. Niche modification (e.g. reef and shell-bed formation) by early mineralized benthic settlers may have increased the likelihood of further successful settlement, leading to the appearance of a period of 'explosive' increase in benthic, mineralized, metazoan diversity. Predator-prey arms races may then have followed, causing early faunal turnover and possible selection for improved armour.

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