One of the most common responses of marine ectotherms to rapid warming is a reduction in body size, but the underlying reasons are unclear. Body size reductions have been documented alongside rapid warming events in the fossil record, such as across the Pliensbachian-Toarcian boundary (PToB) event (~ 183 Mya). As individuals grow, parallel changes in morphology can indicate details of their ecological response to environmental crises, such as changes in resource acquisition, which may anticipate future climate impacts. Here we show that the morphological growth of a marine predator belemnite species (extinct coleoid cephalopods) changed significantly over the PToB warming event. Increasing robustness at different ontogenetic stages likely results from indirect consequences of warming, like resource scarcity or hypercalcification, pointing toward varying ecological tolerances among species. The results of this study stress the importance of taking life history into account as well as phylogeny when studying impacts of environmental stressors on marine organisms.
Nätscher P. S., Dera G., Reddin C. J., Rita P. & De Baets K., 2021. Morphological response accompanying size reduction of belemnites during an Early Jurassic hyperthermal event modulated by life history. Scientific Reports 11: 14480. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-93850-0. Article.