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Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences


Publication details for Mr. Alavya Dhungana

Mitchell, Emily G., Bobkov, Nikolai, Bykova, Natalia, Dhungana, Alavya, Kolesnikov, Anton V., Hogarth, Ian R. P., Liu, Alexander G., Mustill, Tom M. R., Sozonov, Nikita, Rogov, Vladimir I., Xiao, Shuhai & Grazhdankin, Dmitriy V. (2020). The influence of environmental setting on the community ecology of Ediacaran organisms. Interface Focus 10(4): 20190109.

Author(s) from Durham


The broad-scale environment plays a substantial role in shaping modern
marine ecosystems, but the degree to which palaeocommunities were influenced by their environment is unclear. To investigate how broad-scale
environment influenced the community ecology of early animal ecosystems,
we employed spatial point process analyses (SPPA) to examine the community
structure of seven late Ediacaran (558–550 Ma) bedding-plane assemblages
drawn from a range of environmental settings and global localities.
The studied palaeocommunities exhibit marked differences in the response
of their component taxa to sub-metre-scale habitat heterogeneities on the
seafloor. Shallow-marine (nearshore) palaeocommunities were heavily influenced by local habitat heterogeneities, in contrast to their deeper-water
counterparts. The local patchiness within shallow-water communities may
have been further accentuated by the presence of grazers and detritivores,
whose behaviours potentially initiated a propagation of increasing habitat heterogeneity of benthic communities from shallow to deep-marine depositional
environments. Higher species richness in shallow-water Ediacaran assemblages compared to deep-water counterparts across the studied time-interval
could have been driven by this environmental patchiness, because habitat
heterogeneities increase species richness in modern marine environments.
Our results provide quantitative support for the ‘Savannah’ hypothesis for
early animal diversification—whereby Ediacaran diversification was driven
by patchiness in the local benthic environment.