DOES COMPETITIVENESS CHANGE ON GEOLOGICAL TIME SCALES? HINTS FROM BRYOZOAN INTERACTIONS THROUGH TWO MILLION YEARS
Bryozoa are colonial marine animals, many of which encrust hard substrates. They are an exceptional group for studying competition because overgrowth interactions can be exquisitely preserved in the fossil record, allowing us to study the outcomes of ancient competition for living space. Overgrowth results in smothering of the constituent zooids of the losing colony, causing partial or total mortality.
Here, we present results from research on overgrowth interactions from the Wanganui Basin in North Island, New Zealand, one of the best understood sedimentary basins in the world with a finely resolved stratigraphy for units deposited through about 2.5 million years of the Pleistocene and Holocene. We report on competitive outcomes from a few thousand interactions through several formations spanning the Nukumaruan, Castlecliffian and Haweran regional stages, and include also Recent samples dredged from nearby Cook Strait. We ask whether competitiveness – the probability of a given taxon winning an interaction – is predictable through time, and discuss the implications of our results for extinction and speciation on both local and global scales.