The first-order biodiversity pattern on Earth today and at least as far back as the Paleozoic is the latitudinal diversity gradient (LDG), a decrease in richness of species and higher taxa from the equator to the poles. LDGs are produced by geographic trends in origination, extinction, and dispersal over evolutionary timescales, so that analyses of static patterns will be insufficient to reveal underlying processes. The fossil record of marine bivalve genera, a model system for the analysis of biodiversity dynamics over large temporal and spatial scales, shows that an origination and range-expansion gradient plays a major role in generating the LDG. Peak origination rates and peak diversities fall within the tropics, with range expansion out of the tropics the predominant spatial dynamic thereafter. The origination-diversity link occurs even in a "contrarian" group whose diversity peaks at midlatitudes, an exception proving the rule that spatial variations in origination are key to latitudinal diversity patterns. Extinction rates are lower in polar latitudes (≥60°) than in temperate zones and thus cannot create the observed gradient alone. They may, however, help to explain why origination and immigration are evidently damped in higher latitudes. We suggest that species require more resources in higher latitudes, for the seasonality of primary productivity increases by more than an order of magnitude from equatorial to polar regions. Higher-latitude species are generalists that, unlike potential immigrants, are adapted to garner the large share of resources required for incumbency in those regions. When resources are opened up by extinctions, lineages spread chiefly poleward and chiefly through speciation. Astrobiology 9, 113-124.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Space and Planetary Science