Mass extinction may not cause all organisms to 'shrink'

Feb 05, 2014

The sizes of organisms following mass extinction events may vary more than previously thought, which may be inconsistent with the predictions of the so-called 'Lilliput effect,' according to a study published in PLOS ONE on February 5, 2014 by Caroline Sogot from University of Cambridge and colleagues.

Scientists associate mass like the Cretaceous-Paleogene (abbreviated K-Pg) event with a reduction in organism in the aftermath, a phenomenon termed 'the Lilliput effect.' These pronounced changes are thought to be in response to lower food availability and other alterations in the environment that can occur following a . Therefore, survivors of the K-Pg mass extinction should exhibit smaller body size than their pre-extinction relatives. To delve more into this effect, scientists investigated the changes in size of an aquatic invertebrate at the individual- and colony-level before and after the mass extinction.

Scientists analyzed of the 59 bryozoan species and found no significant change in body length. Additionally, the sizes of two types of bryozoan colonies, 210 Maastrichtian colonies and 163 Danian colonies, did not show consistent size decrease before and after the K-Pg extinction event, although maximum did decline in three out of four surviving types of bryozoan. The authors suggest that the lack of size change in the majority of bryozoans studied here may indicate that the Lilliput effect is not universal at all levels, and that the response may vary across organisms.

Dr. Sogot added, "The absence of a clear 'Lilliput effect' in the bryozoans analysed in this study suggests that not all organisms respond in the same manner to all events."

Explore further: An isotopic analysis of two mass extinction events

More information: Sogot CE, Harper EM, Taylor PD (2014) The Lilliput Effect in Colonial Organisms: Cheilostome Bryozoans at the Cretaceous–Paleogene Mass Extinction. PLoS ONE 9(2): e87048. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0087048

Related Stories

How mass extinctions drove the evolution of dinosaurs

Jan 03, 2014

For 20 privileged Victorians, Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins held a lavish New Year's dinner party in 1853 inside a model of a dinosaur that was created for the Great Exhibition held two years earlier. Hawkins's ...

Bees underwent massive extinction when dinosaurs did

Oct 23, 2013

For the first time ever, scientists have documented a widespread extinction of bees that occurred 65 million years ago, concurrent with the massive event that wiped out land dinosaurs and many flowering plants. ...

Recommended for you

An uphill climb for mountain species?

10 hours ago

A recently published paper provides a history of scientific research on mountain ecosystems, looks at the issues threatening wildlife in these systems, and sets an agenda for biodiversity conservation throughout ...

Extinctions during human era worse than thought

12 hours ago

It's hard to comprehend how bad the current rate of species extinction around the world has become without knowing what it was before people came along. The newest estimate is that the pre-human rate was ...

Robotics to combat slimy pest

15 hours ago

One hundred years after they arrived in a sack of grain, white Italian snails are the target of beleaguered South Australian farmers who have joined forces with University of Sydney robotics experts to eradicate ...

Migratory fish scale to new heights

16 hours ago

WA scientists are the first to observe and document juvenile trout minnow (Galaxias truttaceus Valenciennes 1846) successfully negotiating a vertical weir wall by modifying their swimming technique to 'climb' ...

User comments : 0