Plate-tectonic Regulation of Faunal Diversity and Sea Level: a Model


A GROWING body of evidence and theory supports the idea that processes of plate tectonics have been operating for the past 3 × 109 years1. The hypothesis of ocean-driven plates implies that certain mountain systems represent the remains of former large ocean basins. An important corollary of this notion is that the history of continental assembly and fragmentation can be inferred from the geological record of the various mountain systems. We show here how the diversity of marine fauna and fluctuations in sea level can be related to patterns of continental fragmentation and reassembly. It seems that changes in the diversity of fauna predicted from these patterns can account for a great deal of the variation in the diversification and extinction of marine biota that has long puzzled palaeontologists. The timing of major transgressions and regressions predicted from these patterns also agrees well with the observed record.

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VALENTINE, J., MOORES, E. Plate-tectonic Regulation of Faunal Diversity and Sea Level: a Model. Nature 228, 657–659 (1970).

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