- The Paleontological Society
Studies of crinoid morphology have been pivotal in understanding the constraints on the range of morphology within a clade as well as the patterns of disparity throughout the Phanerozoic. Newly discovered and described faunas and recent study of early Paleozoic crinoid diversity provide an ideal opportunity to reanalyze Ordovician through Early Silurian crinoid disparity with more complete taxonomic coverage and finer stratigraphic resolution. Using the coarse stratigraphic binning of Foote (1999), the updated morphologic data set has a similar disparity pattern to those previously reported for the early Paleozoic. However, with the more resolved stratigraphic binning used by Peters and Ausich (2008), a significant difference exists between the original and current data sets. Both data sets have a pronounced disparity high during the late Middle Ordovician. However, the updated disparity curve has a much higher initial disparity during the Early Ordovician and a pronounced rise in disparity during the Silurian recovery. Examination of differential sampling, proportions of the crinoid orders through time, and methods of coding characters indicate these factors have little effect on the pattern of crinoid disparity. The Silurian morphospace expansion occurs primarily within disparids and coincides with the origination of the myelodactylids. These findings corroborate the rapid expansion of morphospace during the Ordovician. However, crinoid disparity did not remain static and, although less frequent than during the initial radiation, new body plans evolved following the Ordovician Extinction (e.g., the myelodactylids). These results are consistent with the hypothesis of ecology constraining the limits on morphologic disparity at the class level.