Environmental impact on ectocochleate cephalopod reproductive strategies and the evolutionary significance of cephalopod egg size


Authors: Laptikhovsky VL, Rogov MA, Nikolaeva SE, Arkhipkin AI

Published in: Bulletin of Geosciences, volume 88, issue 1; pages: 83 - 94; Received 2 February 2012; Accepted in revised form 19 June 2012; Online 28 November 2012

Keywords: Ammonoidea, Nautiloidea, reproductive strategy, mass extinction, climate change, egg,

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Supplementary material

Appendix 1 (119 kB)

Compilation of embryonic shell measurements of Paleozoic and Mesozoic ammonoid taxa, geographic areas and inferred climate.

Appendix 2 (79 kB)

Compilation of embryonic shell measurements of Paleozoic–recent coiled nautiloids, geographic areas and inferred climate.

Appendix 3 (100 kB)

References for Nautiloidea and Ammonoidea



Published data on initial chamber (protoconch) diameter in 507 species, and embryonic shell (ammonitella) diameter in 231 species of Ammonoidea, and embryonic shell (nauta) diameters for 132 species of coiled Nautiloidea, were used to examine evolutionary change in ectocochleate cephalopod reproductive strategies. Palaeotemperatures were found to be a key factor influencing historical changes in the evolution of egg size in ammonoids and nautiloids. A negative relationship was found between egg size and warming of the Earth’s climate. Factors related to habitat were also important; in general egg size was larger in cold-water cephalopods. Egg size in Lytoceratina and Phylloceratina in the deep waters of the upper continental slope was much larger than in epipelagic Scaphitidae, as in modern fish and squids. Small eggs and high evolutionary rates helped ammonoids to colonise new habitats and develop high biological diversity, but involved them in planktonic food webs making them more vulnerable to abiotic variability (e.g., climatic changes), ultimately leading to their extinction. Large eggs helped nautiloids to persist through geological history, but at the cost of lower biological diversity, lower evolutionary rates and restricted options for colonising new habitats. Large-egged species such as nautiloids are more vulnerable to ecological, biotic disasters such as the appearance of new predators, including modern fishery. Independence from the planktonic food web is likely to be very important for a taxon’s long-term survival over evolutionary history, as demonstrated also by Coelacanthiformes and Elasmobranchia.


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