Palaeobiogeography and the Ordovician and Mesozoic-Cenozoic biotic radiations
Curves of taxonomic diversity through geological time consistently show major evolutionary radiations during the Ordovician Period and from the mid-Mesozoic to the present day. Both intervals were characterized by marked biotic provincialism, reflecting episodes of major continental break-up and global tectonism, and their later histories featured steep global climatic gradients. The Ordovician radiation can be recognized at a wide spectrum of taxonomic levels from species to class, and the biogeographical patterns associated with the radiation of individual clades reflect a complex combination of plate distribution, tectonic activity, sedimentary environment, sea-level rise and, ultimately, glaciation. The true scale of the mid-Mesozoic-Cenozoic biotic radiation is currently a topic of intense debate but there is no doubt that it affected plants and animals in both the marine and terrestrial realms. The role of land bridges and ocean gateways in controlling the formation of biodiversity patterns has been a persistent theme in Mesozoic-Cenozoic biogeography, and a complex set of Neogene tectonic events probably aided the development of both latitudinal and longitudinal provinces during the Cenozoic. The present volume highlights some of the successes across a spectrum of approaches to unravelling the Ordovician and Mesozoic-Cenozoic radiations within the context of palaeobiogeography.