Category Archives: Plate tectonics

Plate tectonics drive tropical reef biodiversity dynamics

A new paper is out in Nature Communications – a study by Fabien Leprieur and co-authors (including me) on how plate tectonics influences the biodiversity dynamics of tropical reefs. Previously published paleo-shoreline estimates (see data on Github and Heine et al paper) have were used as base to model paleo-bathymetry and time-dependent spatial diversification patterns of tropical marine reefs – here’s the abstract:

The Cretaceous breakup of Gondwana strongly modified the global distribution of shallow tropical seas reshaping the geographic configuration of marine basins. However, the links between tropical reef availability, plate tectonic processes and marine biodiversity distribution patterns are still unknown. Here, we show that a spatial diversification model constrained by absolute plate motions for the past 140 million years predicts the emergence and movement of diversity hotspots on tropical reefs. The spatial dynamics of tropical reefs explains marine fauna diversification in the Tethyan Ocean during the Cretaceous and early Cenozoic, and identifies an eastward movement of ancestral marine lineages towards the Indo-Australian Archipelago in the Miocene. A mechanistic model based only on habitat-driven diversification and dispersal yields realistic predictions of current biodiversity patterns for both corals and fishes. As in terrestrial systems, we demonstrate that plate tectonics played a major role in driving tropical marine shallow reef biodiversity dynamics.

The paper is available as open-access on the Nature Communications website. Associated data can be downloaded from Figshare.

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Continents breaking apart

Watch this space for a new paper on the formation of hyperextended margins which should be out in the next week or two. Below a photo from the Gulf of Suez (Hamman Faraun fault block north of Abu Zenima) taken during a field trip a few years back, which illustrates how a continental rift looks like just before continents break apart.

Overview map of the Gulf of Suez (GeoMapApp) with location (red circle) and view direction (red arrow) of the photo below.

Overview map with hillshade relief of the Gulf of Suez region (GeoMapApp) with location (red circle) and view direction (red arrow) of the photo below.

 

A view of the northern Gulf of Suez looking northwest from the Sinai margin towards the African margin. Picture licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license.

A view of the northern Gulf of Suez looking northwest from the Sinai  towards the African margin. This is how the very young South Atlantic could have looked like in the Cretaceous. The photo is taken from the Hamman Faraun fault block north of Abu Zenima (Openstreetmap link) . Picture licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license.

The Saharan Atlantic ocean makes ripples (edited)

Our  “Saharan Atlantic ocean” paper has just been featured in GEOLOGY’s “Research Focus” article in the March issue. The focus article is entitled “Roadmap to continental rupture: Is obliquity the route to success?” is written by Cythia Ebinger and Jolante van Wijk and is available as open access. This is fantastic news!

Update #1,2,3,4,5: So by now, there’s been quite some science (and popular) media buzz with both Sydney Uni and GFZ Potsdam having released press info on our article – it’s been overwhelming. Spiegel Online (one of the largest German online news outlets) & Sueddeutsche Zeitung (also one of the largest papers) reported in Germany even going a bit beyond the standard press release texts. As Sascha and I hoped, our hypothetical “Saharan Ocean” image (see here) facilitated the take up of the story quite a bit.

According to Altmetric, the article is currently ranking as #7 in terms of impact which makes it one of the highest ever scores for articles published in GEOLOGY.

Links here (I’m updating those from time to time):