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Volume 19 Issue 4 (April/May 2009)

GSA Today

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Article, pp. 4-10 | PDF (492KB)

Understanding the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event (GOBE): Influences of paleogeography, paleoclimate, or paleoecology?

Thomas Servaisa,*, David A.T. Harperb,*, Axel Munneckec,*, Alan W. Owend,*, and Peter M. Sheehane,*

a Equipe “Paléontologie et Paléogéographie du Paléozoïque,” UMR 8157 du CNRS “Géosystèmes,” Université de Lille 1, F-59655 Villeneuve d'Ascq, France
b Statens Naturhistoriske Museum (Geologisk Museum), Øster Voldgade 5-7, DK-1350 København K, Denmark; Jun Li, Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (NIGPAS), Chi-Ming-Ssu, Nanjing 210008, China
c GeoZentrum Nordbayern, Loewenichstraβe 28, 91054 Erlangen, Germany
d Dept. of Geographical & Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow, Gregory Building, Lilybank Gardens, Glasgow G12 8QQ, Scotland, UK
e Geology Dept., Milwaukee Public Museum, 800 West Wells Street, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53233, USA

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“The Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event” (GOBE) was arguably the most important and sustained increase of marine biodiversity in Earth's history. During a short time span of 25 Ma, an “explosion” of diversity at the order, family, genus, and species level occurred. The combined effects of several geological and biological processes helped generate the GOBE. The peak of the GOBE correlates with unique paleogeography, featuring the greatest continental dispersal of the Paleozoic. Rapid sea-floor spreading during this time coincided with warm climates, high sea levels, and the largest tropical shelf area of the Phanerozoic. In addition, important ecological evolutionary changes took place, with the “explosion” of both zooplankton and suspension feeding organisms, possibly based on increased phytoplankton availability and high nutrient input to the oceans driven by intense volcanic activity. Extraterrestrial causes, in the form of asteroid impacts, have also been invoked to explain this remarkable event.

Received: December 12, 2008; Accepted: January 29, 2009

DOI: 10.1130/GSATG37A.1

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