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Keywords:

  • Plankton;
  • terrestrialization;
  • evolution;
  • ecology

Metazoans evolved in the sea and quickly invaded benthic niches. It was from these niches that other large ecosystems were colonized through the later Precambrian and the Phanerozoic. Entering these new environments, the colonists encountered new sets of macroevolutionary controls. Narratives of each colonization are important for historical ecology, while comparison of different events can throw light on these underlying controls. Recent narrative work on the evolution of plankton has suggested that this series of events was unique in respect of its duration and method. Animals have been migrating into the plankton since the Proterozoic, and all the main planktic groups have a benthic origin. Migration was usually by single species acting independently of their native community. A comparison with the other major Phanerozoic colonization, that of the land, highlights these unusual features. Colonization of the land began in the Ordovician and seems to have occurred sporadically. Several of the major groups of terrestrial animals originated on land. The invasion of land is usually related to the evolution of land plants and is perhaps best regarded as migration at the level of the community. The major differences between the two colonizations may be attributable to the dominant control of the environment over plankton versus that of biotic interaction over land animals.