Processes Influencing the Diversity of Middle Permian Brachiopods in the Bell Canyon Formation of the Delaware Basin (West Texas, Guadalupe Mountains National Park)
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A fundamental question of long standing in the study of life on Earth is, “Why are there so many species?” This question concerns the distribution of and relationships among species in the present day, but also requires an understanding of the history of diversity. Patterns of diversity result from multiple, interconnected ecological processes operating at different spatial scales. The goal of this research is to gain knowledge about processes that control diversity by using fossil data to provide a temporal perspective that is unavailable when studying modern ecological communities. The fossil record provides the only natural historical account of changes in the diversity of ecological communities in Earth’s past. This research examines the taxonomic composition and diversity of brachiopod paleocommunities in the Delaware Basin of west Texas (Guadalupe Mountains National Park). The study interval is the Bell Canyon Formation, a 5.4-Myr interval of upper Middle Permian (Capitanian) siliciclastic and carbonate rocks deposited on the toe-ofslope of the basin. Silicified brachiopods extracted from the carbonate rocks provide the basis to test two hypotheses: (1) the taxonomic composition of local fossil brachiopod paleocommunities remains uniform, and (2) the changes in diversity of local fossil brachiopod paleocommunities reflects the relative importance of regional processes. Multivariate analyses of clustering analysis and ordination, diversity partitioning, and rank abundance plots are used to evaluate brachiopod taxonomic composition and diversity within an ecological framework. Sequence stratigraphic analysis provides the means to place the results within an environmental context related to sea-level changes. Results indicate that the reorganization of brachiopod paleocommunity structure coincides with major basinal-scale disruptions. Large disruptions allowed rare taxa and invaders from outside the basin to become dominant within paleocommunities. The dynamics within paleocommunities do not appear to prevent the replacement of the incumbent taxa with new taxa. The importance of these findings indicate that paleocommunities are not static through this interval and can be perturbed into configurations with new dominant taxa. Therefore, ecological responses of paleocommunities are resolvable at the geological time scale.
Fall, Leigh Margaret (2010). Processes Influencing the Diversity of Middle Permian Brachiopods in the Bell Canyon Formation of the Delaware Basin (West Texas, Guadalupe Mountains National Park). Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from