- The Paleontological Society
The quantification of disparity is an important aspect of recent macroevolutionary studies, and it is usually motivated by theoretical considerations about the pace of innovation and the filling of morphospace. In practice, varying protocols of data collection and analysis have rendered comparisons among studies difficult. The basic question remains, How sensitive is any given disparity signal to different aspects of sampling and data analysis? Here we explore this issue in the context of the radiation of the echinoid order Spatangoida during the Cretaceous. We compare patterns at the genus and species levels, with time subdivision into subepochs and into stages, and with morphological sampling based on landmarks, traditional morphometrics, and discrete characters. In terms of temporal scale, similarity of disparity pattern accrues despite a change in temporal resolution, and a general deceleration in morphological diversification is apparent. Different morphometric methods also produce similar signals. Both the landmark analysis and the discrete character analysis suggest relatively high early disparity, whereas the analysis based on traditional morphometrics records a much lower value. This difference appears to reflect primarily the measurement of different aspects of overall morphology. Disparity patterns are similar at both the genus and species levels. Moreover, inclusion or exclusion of the sister order Holasteroida and the stem group Disasteroida in the sampled morphospace did not affect proportional changes in spatangoid disparity. Similar results were found for spatangoid subclades vis-à-vis spatangoids as a whole. The relative robustness of these patterns implies that the choice of temporal scale, morphometric scheme, and taxonomic level may not affect broad trends in disparity and the representation of large-scale morphospace structure.