A new study shows that an ancient relative of mammals did not evolve any fundamentally new features following the largest mass extinction in Earth's history.
In the aftermath of the largest mass extinction in Earth history, anomodonts –ancient relatives of mammals – did not evolve any fundamentally new features, according to new research published today in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. This suggests that the evolutionary bottleneck they passed through during the extinction constrained their evolution during the recovery.
The study's findings are surprising as much research so far suggests that the survivors of mass extinctions are often presented with new ecological opportunities because the loss of many species in their communities allows them to evolve new lifestyles and new anatomical features as they fill the roles vacated by the victims. However, it turns out that not all survivors respond in the same way, and some may not be able to exploit fully the new opportunities arising after a mass extinction.
Dr Marcello Ruta of the University of Lincoln, with colleagues from the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin and the University of Bristol, studied how anomodonts responded in the aftermath of the end-Permian mass extinction, about 252 million years ago, when as many as 90 per cent of marine organisms and 70 per cent of terrestrial species became extinct.