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Permian–Triassic phylogenetic and morphologic evolution of rhynchonellide brachiopods

Guo, Zhen; Chen, Zhong-Qiang; Harper, David A.T.; Huang, Yuangeng


Zhen Guo

Zhong-Qiang Chen

Yuangeng Huang


The Rhynchonellida is a major group of brachiopods that survived the “big five” mass extinctions and flourished after the Permian/Triassic (P/Tr) crisis. However, phylogenetic and character evolution in the Rhynchonellida across the P/Tr transition is poorly understood. In view of the widespread homoplasy across this order, we employ a tip-dated Bayesian analysis to reconstruct phylogenetic relationships for late Permian–Triassic rhynchonellides. The same data were also analyzed using three other methods: undated Bayesian, equal-weighting, and implied-weighting parsimony. Compared with trees generated by other methods, those constructed by tip-dating best account for the homoplasy in this group and are closer to previous assumptions on the evolution of this order. Based on the analyses of multiple trees, the major increase in lineage richness occurred in the Early and early Middle Triassic. Also, richness in the Anisian almost reached the highest level seen in the Triassic. According to fossil records, a pronounced reduction in shell size and in the development of ornamentation occurred after the P/Tr extinction, which is largely due to the loss of large and highly sculptured genera and the diversification of small-sized and weakly ornamented genera. Ancestral-state estimation of shell size and development of ornamentation, coupled with comparisons of other characters, indicate that the Early–Middle Triassic mature “small-sized taxa” may have characters displayed by juveniles of their ancestors. This suggests that for these genera, paedomorphosis was possibly a strategy to survive and diversify in the harsh environment after the P/Tr extinction.


Guo, Z., Chen, Z., Harper, D. A., & Huang, Y. (2021). Permian–Triassic phylogenetic and morphologic evolution of rhynchonellide brachiopods. Paleobiology,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 6, 2021
Online Publication Date Aug 17, 2021
Publication Date 2021
Deposit Date Sep 14, 2021
Journal Paleobiology
Print ISSN 0094-8373
Electronic ISSN 1938-5331
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed