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The Species-Area Relationship in the Late Ordovician: A Test Using Neutral Theory

Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute
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  • Biodiversity
  • Biogeographic Provinces
  • Paleoecology
  • Neutral Theory
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Earth Science
  • Ecology


The fundamental biodiversity number, θ, as proposed by Hubbell, should be positively correlated with province area. Because θ can be calculated from preserved relative abundance distributions, this correlation can be tested in the fossil record for regions with known provinces. Late Ordovician (443–458 Ma) strata of Laurentia are divided into four geochemically and biologically distinct regions that reflect provinces in the epicontinental sea. We use existing and newly obtained bed-level census data to test whether Hubbell’s θ is positively correlated with the area of these four regions, corresponding roughly to the Appalachian Basin, Cincinnati Arch, Upper Mississippi Valley, and western United States and Canada. Results indicate a positive relationship between province area and θ that suggests the influence of provincial area, among other factors, on diversity. This correlation highlights the inherent link between diversity and abundance structure at local and regional scales, such that changes at one scale will necessarily affect the other. Since diversity at these smaller spatial scales is an important component of global biodiversity, determining the nature of this relationship in the fossil record has implications for understanding how diversity is assembled globally throughout the Phanerozoic.

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