Adaptive ecological niche migration does not negate extinction susceptibility

Woodhouse, A.; Jackson, S. L.; Jamieson, R. A.; Newton, R. J.; Sexton, P. F. and Aze, T. (2021). Adaptive ecological niche migration does not negate extinction susceptibility. Scientific reports, 11(1), article no. 15411.



Extinction rates in the modern world are currently at their highest in 66 million years and are likely to increase with projections of future climate change. Our knowledge of modern-day extinction risk is largely limited to decadal-centennial terrestrial records, while data from the marine realm is typically applied to high-order (> 1 million year) timescales. At present, it is unclear whether fossil organisms with common ancestry and ecological niche exhibit consistent indicators of ecological stress prior to extinction. The marine microfossil record, specifically that of the planktonic foraminifera, allows for high-resolution analyses of large numbers of fossil individuals with incredibly well-established ecological and phylogenetic history. Here, analysis of the isochronous extinction of two members of the planktonic foraminiferal genus Dentoglobigerina shows disruptive selection differentially compounded by permanent ecological niche migration, “pre-extinction gigantism”, and photosymbiont bleaching prior to extinction. Despite shared ecological and phylogenetic affinity, and timing of extinction, the marked discrepancies observed within the pre-extinction phenotypic responses are species-specific. These behaviours may provide insights into the nature of evolution and extinction in the open ocean and can potentially assist in the recognition and understanding of marine extinction risk in response to global climate change.

Viewing alternatives

Download history


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions