Disparity of Early Cretaceous Lamniformes sharks

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Institutionen för geovetenskaper

Abstract:

The geological range of lamniform sharks stretches from present day species such as Carcharodon carcharias (great white shark) back to the at the moment oldest undoubted fossil finds during the Early Cretaceous. In this paper a geometric morphometric analysis was performed on images of Early Cretaceous lamniform teeth collected from published literature in order to examine the change in disparity (range of morphological variation within a group) throughout the time period. Due to limited availability of published material and time constraints only the Barremian and Albian ages were investigated. The Barremian exhibited tall and narrow tooth morphologies while the Albian showed a wide range of morphological variation including more robust, wide and sometimes triangular shapes but also displayed further specialization of the tall and narrow forms. This change is likely indicative of a dietary and ecological expansion from only eating for example small fish and soft-bodied creatures to a wide range of prey for the group, including larger and more robust animals such as marine turtles and large bony fish. This in combination with the decline of some marine predators as well as the diversification of possible prey is interpreted as that an adaptive radiation of the Lamniformes could have taken place during the latter half of the Early Cretaceous.

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