Evolution of the RhynchotremaHiscobeccus lineage: implications for the diversification of the Late Ordovician epicontinental brachiopod fauna of Laurentia



Multivariate analysis based on nine biometric characters of 171 Late Ordovician rhynchonellide specimens from nine upper Sandbian–upper Katian localities in North America supports the hypothesis that one of the diagnostic taxa of the North American epicontinental brachiopod fauna, Hiscobeccus, evolved from Rhynchotrema, which lived predominantly in peri-cratonic settings. The oldest known Hiscobeccus, H. mackenziensis of early Katian age, exhibits transitional characteristics between Rhynchotrema and Hiscobeccus, and it clusters more closely with Rhynchotrema than with younger species of Hiscobeccus of mid–late Katian (Maysvillian–Richmondian) age. Diversification of the Hiscobeccus lineage in epicontinental seas was characterized by drastic increase in shell size, globosity and lamellosity, especially in palaeoequatorially located inland basins. Such morphological trends are interpreted as adaptation to relatively shallow, muddy substrates, moderate water turbulence, relatively low oxygen content and unstable supply of nutrients in generally overheated epicontinental seas with sluggish circulation.