Cole, Selina R., Wright, David F., and Ausich, William I. 2019. "Phylogenetic community paleoecology of one of the earliest complex crinoid faunas (Brechin Lagerstatte, Ordovician)." Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology 521:82-98. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2019.02.006
Integrating phylogenetic biology with paleoecology can provide a valuable context for understanding patterns of community structure and niche partitioning in ancient ecosystems. However, the lack of robust phylogenies for many fossil taxa precludes studies of this nature, particularly among marine invertebrates. Fossil Crinoidea (Echinodermata) comprise an ideal model system for phylogenetic community paleoecology for three reasons: (1) they preserve anatomical features that directly relate to feeding ecology, (2) assemblages of well-preserved specimens represent "ecological snapshots" in time, and (3) recent advances in resolving the crinoid tree of life have produced high-resolution phylogenies for Ordovician lineages. Here, we apply multivariate and phylogenetic comparative methods to investigate patterns of paleocommunity structure, niche partitioning, and ecomorphospace occupation in one of the earliest known complex crinoid paleocommunities, the Brechin Lagerstatte (Upper Ordovician, Katian). Results indicate niche differences among species were determined primarily by characters related to filtration fan morphology. Filtration fan density and body size distributions support phylogenetic niche conservatism, but traits related to the size of the feeding area are more labile and exhibit greater divergence than expected among closely related species. Finally, we compare changes in the shape and phylogenetic structure of niche distributions between the Brechin Lagerstatte and the Edwardsville crinoid fauna, a well-studied Mississippian (Visean) paleocommunity, to examine patterns of community change across the Early to Middle Paleozoic Crinoid Macroevolutionary Faunas.