Functional consequences of Palaeozoic reef collapse

Bridge, Tom C.L., Baird, Andrew H., Pandolfi, John M., McWilliam, Michael J., and Zapalski, Mikolaj K. (2022) Functional consequences of Palaeozoic reef collapse. Scientific Reports, 12 (1). 1386.

PDF (Published Version) - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (2MB) | Preview
View at Publisher Website:


Biogenic reefs have been hotspots of biodiversity and evolutionary novelty throughout the Phanerozoic. The largest reef systems in Earth’s history occurred in the Devonian period, but collapsed during the Late Devonian Mass Extinction. However, the consequences for the functional diversity of Palaeozoic reefs have received little attention. Here, we examine changes in the functional diversity of tabulate coral assemblages over a 35 million year period from the middle Devonian to the Carboniferous, straddling the multiphase extinction event to identify the causes and ecological consequences of the extinction for tabulate corals. By examining five key morphological traits, we show a divergent response of taxonomic and functional diversity to the mass extinction: taxonomic richness peaked during the Givetian (~ 388–383 Ma) and coincided with peak reef building, but functional diversity was only moderate because many species had very similar trait combinations. The collapse of taxonomic diversity and reef building in the late Devonian had minimal impact on functional richness of coral assemblages. However, non-random shifts towards species with larger corallites and lower colony integration suggest a shift from photosymbiotic to asymbiotic taxa associated over the study period. Our results suggest that the collapse of the huge Devonian reef systems was correlated with a breakdown of photosymbiosis and extinction of photosymbiotic tabulate coral taxa. Despite the appearance of new tabulate coral species over the next 35 million years, the extinction of taxa with photosymbiotic traits had long-lasting consequences for reef building and, by extension, shallow marine ecosystems in the Palaeozoic.

Item ID: 74457
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2045-2322
Copyright Information: Open Access. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Date Deposited: 25 Oct 2022 02:23
FoR Codes: 37 EARTH SCIENCES > 3708 Oceanography > 370801 Biological oceanography @ 50%
37 EARTH SCIENCES > 3708 Oceanography > 370803 Physical oceanography @ 50%
Downloads: Total: 587
Last 12 Months: 7
More Statistics

Actions (Repository Staff Only)

Item Control Page Item Control Page