Increasing morphological complexity in multiple parallel lineages of the Crustacea

S J Adamowicz, A Purvis, Matthew A Wills

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61 Citations (SciVal)


The prospect of finding macroevolutionary trends and rules in the history of life is tremendously appealing, but very few pervasive trends have been found. Here, we demonstrate a parallel increase in the morphological complexity of most of the deep lineages within a major clade. We focus on the Crustacea, measuring the morphological differentiation of limbs. First, we show a clear trend of increasing complexity among 66 free-living, ordinal-level taxa from the Phanerozoic fossil record. We next demonstrate that this trend is pervasive, occurring in 10 or 11 of 12 matched-pair comparisons (across five morphological diversity indices) between extinct Paleozoic and related Recent taxa. This clearly differentiates the pattern from the effects of lineage sorting. Furthermore, newly appearing taxa tend to have had more types of limbs and a higher degree of limb differentiation than the contemporaneous average, whereas those going extinct showed higher-than-average limb redundancy. Patterns of contemporary species diversity partially reflect the paleontological trend. These results provide a rare demonstration of a large-scale and probably driven trend occurring across multiple independent lineages and influencing both the form and number of species through deep time and in the present day.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4786-4791
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number12
Early online date17 Mar 2008
Publication statusPublished - 25 Mar 2008


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