Gemma Louise Benevento, Roger B. J. BensonÂ and Matt Friedman (2019)
Patterns of mammalian jaw ecomorphological disparity during the Mesozoic/Cenozoic transition.
Proceedings of the Royal SocietyÂ B 286: 20190347.
The radiation of mammals after the Cretaceous/Palaeogene (K/Pg) boundary was a major event in the evolution of terrestrial ecosystems. Multiple studies point to increases in maximum body size and body size disparity, but patterns of disparity for other traits are less clear owing to a focus on different indices and subclades. We conducted an inclusive comparison of jaw functional disparity from the Early Jurassicâlatest Eocene, using six mechanically relevant mandibular ratios for 256 species representing all major groups. Jaw functional disparity across all mammals was low throughout much of the Mesozoic and remained low across the K/Pg boundary. Nevertheless, the K/Pg boundary was characterized by a pronounced pattern of turnover and replacement, entailing a substantial reduction of non-therian and stem-therian disparity, alongside a marked increase in that of therians. Total mammal disparity exceeded its Mesozoic maximum for the first time during the Eocene, when therian mammals began exploring previously unoccupied regions of function space. This delay in the rise of jaw functional disparity until the Eocene probably reflects the duration of evolutionary recovery after the K/Pg mass extinction event. This contrasts with the more rapid expansion of maximum body size, which occurred in the Palaeocene.