Late Jurassic tethyan ancestry of Recent southern high-latitude marine isopods (Crustacea, Malacostraca)



Isopods are one of the key marine groups that radiated extensively in the southern high-latitude regions, and it is widely assumed that they did so essentially through the Cenozoic era. Nevertheless, palaeontological evidence is now beginning to accumulate which suggests that some at least of the key isopod taxa may be of considerably greater antiquity. In particular, Schweglerella strobli Polz from the Early Tithonian Plattenkalk of Solnhofen, southern Germany indicates that the suborder Sphaeromatidea is of at least Late Jurassic ancestry, and possibly much older. Schweglerella strobli is phylogenetically close to both the Bathynataliidae and Serolidae, but is here placed in a new family, Schweglerellidae. Like the decapods, the early phylogenetic history of the isopods may be characterized by a considerable macroevolutionary lag. Perhaps a number of major marine invertebrate groups underwent a Mesozoic phase of widespread dispersal when the Pangaean margins were still largely intact and climates globally more equable? The subsequent radiation of groups such as the sphaeromatidean isopods may have been largely contingent upon the Cenozoic thermal isolation of the Southern Ocean.