DEVELOPMENTAL TRAIT EVOLUTION IN TRILOBITES

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Abstract

We performed a tree-based analysis of trilobite postembryonic development in a sample of 60 species for which quantitative data on segmentation and growth increments between putative successive instars are available, and that spans much of the temporal, phylogenetic, and habitat range of the group. Three developmental traits were investigated: the developmental mode of trunk segmentation, the average per-molt growth rate, and the conformity to a constant per-molt growth rate (Dyar's rule), for which an original metric was devised. Growth rates are within the normal range with respect to other arthropods and show overall conformity to Dyar's rule. Randomization tests indicate statistically significant phylogenetic signal for growth in early juveniles but not in later stages. Among five evolutionary models fit via maximum likelihood, one in which growth rates vary independently among species, analogous to Brownian motion on a star phylogeny, is the best supported in all ontogenetic stages, although a model with a single, stationary peak to which growth rates are attracted also garners nontrivial support. These results are not consistent with unbounded, Brownian-motion-like evolutionary dynamics, but instead suggest the influence of an adaptive zone. Our results suggest that developmental traits in trilobites were relatively labile during evolutionary history.

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