Contrasting evolutionary flexibility in sister groups: disparity and diversity in Mesozoic atelostomate echinoids
Temporal asymmetries in clade histories have often been studied in lower Paleozoic radiations. Post-Paleozoic patterns, however, are less well understood. In this paper, disparity and diversity changes in Mesozoic heart urchins were analyzed at the ordinal level, with contrasts among the sister groups Holasteroida and Spatangoida, their paraphyletic stem group Disasteroida, and the more inclusive clade, the superorder Atelostomata. A 38-dimensional landmark-based morphospace representing test architecture was used to describe morphological evolution in terms of total variance and total range. Discordances between disparity and diversity were evident and were expressed both as deceleration in morphological diversification in all groups and as disproportionately higher disparity early in the histories of the Atelostomata, Holasteroida, and Spatangoida. The finding that the early atelostomate disparity peak coincides with the origin of the orders Holasteroida and Spatangoida lends support to the perception of orders as semi-independent entities in the biological hierarchy and as meaningful proxies for morphological distinctness.