Access

You are not currently logged in.

Access your personal account or get JSTOR access through your library or other institution:

login

Log in to your personal account or through your institution.

If you need an accessible version of this item please contact JSTOR User Support

Economics, Volcanoes, and Phanerozoic Revolutions

Geerat J. Vermeij
Paleobiology
Vol. 21, No. 2 (Spring, 1995), pp. 125-152
Published by: Paleontological Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2401073
Page Count: 28
  • Read Online (Free)
  • Download ($12.00)
  • Subscribe ($19.50)
  • Cite this Item
If you need an accessible version of this item please contact JSTOR User Support
Economics, Volcanoes, and Phanerozoic Revolutions
Preview not available

Abstract

Two intervals of the Phanerozoic stand out as times of biosphere-scale revolution in the sense that biogeochemical cycles came under increased control by organisms. These are the early Paleozoic (extending from just before the Cambrian to the Middle Ordovician, a duration of about 100 m.y.), characterized by the appearance of predators, burrowers, and mineralized skeletons, and by the subsequent diversification of planktonic animals and suspension-feeders; and the later Mesozoic (latest Triassic to mid-Cretaceous, a duration of somewhat more than 100 m.y.), marked by a great diversification of predators and burrowers and by the rise of mineralized planktonic protists. This paper explores the economic conditions that make such revolutions possible. I argue that opportunities for innovation and diversification are enhanced when raw materials and energy are supplied at increasing rates, or when organisms gain greater access to these commodities through rising temperatures and higher metabolic rates. Greater per capita availability of resources enables populations to grow; lessens or alters ecological constraints on functional improvement; makes possible the evolution of high metabolic rates (large incomes), which in turn permit improvement in each of several otherwise incompatible functions; and favors the establishment and spread of daughter species arising through founder speciation. Reductions in productivity reinforce adaptational constraints and may bring about extinctions. Massive submarine volcanism, together with its associated phenomena of warming, sea-level rise, and widening of warm-weather zones, is proposed to be the chief extrinsic trigger for the Phanerozoic revolutions. The later Mesozoic was characterized by continental rifting, which accompanied massive submarine volcanic eruptions that produced large quantities of nutrients and carbon dioxide. This activity began in the Late Triassic and peaked in the mid- to Late Cretaceous. The Early Cambrian was also a time of rifting and may likewise have been marked by large-scale submarine volcanism. Continental and explosive volcanism, weathering, and upwelling are other potential means for increasing evolutionary opportunity, but their effects are either local or linked directly or indirectly with cooling. Intense chemical weathering in the Early Cambrian, however, may have contributed to the early Paleozoic revolution. The extrinsic stimulus was greatly amplified through positive feedback by the evolution of higher metabolic rates and other means for acquiring, trading, retaining, and recycling resources more rapidly and from a wider range of environments. Because these novelties usually require a high and predictable supply of resources, their evolution is more likely when extrinsically controlled supplies increase rather than when per capita availability is low. In the view adopted here, the microevolutionary and microeconomic market forces of competition and natural selection operate against a backdrop of macroeconomic supply and demand. Resources are under both extrinsic and intrinsic control. Positive and negative feedbacks link processes at the micro- and macroeconomic levels. This view complements the genealogical and hierarchical conception of evolution by emphasizing that the pattern of descent is influenced by resources and by market forces operating at all scales of space and time.

Page Thumbnails

  • Thumbnail: Page 
[125]
    [125]
  • Thumbnail: Page 
126
    126
  • Thumbnail: Page 
127
    127
  • Thumbnail: Page 
128
    128
  • Thumbnail: Page 
129
    129
  • Thumbnail: Page 
130
    130
  • Thumbnail: Page 
131
    131
  • Thumbnail: Page 
132
    132
  • Thumbnail: Page 
133
    133
  • Thumbnail: Page 
134
    134
  • Thumbnail: Page 
135
    135
  • Thumbnail: Page 
136
    136
  • Thumbnail: Page 
137
    137
  • Thumbnail: Page 
138
    138
  • Thumbnail: Page 
139
    139
  • Thumbnail: Page 
140
    140
  • Thumbnail: Page 
141
    141
  • Thumbnail: Page 
142
    142
  • Thumbnail: Page 
143
    143
  • Thumbnail: Page 
144
    144
  • Thumbnail: Page 
145
    145
  • Thumbnail: Page 
146
    146
  • Thumbnail: Page 
147
    147
  • Thumbnail: Page 
148
    148
  • Thumbnail: Page 
149
    149
  • Thumbnail: Page 
150
    150
  • Thumbnail: Page 
151
    151
  • Thumbnail: Page 
152
    152