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Fine-scale appendage structure of the Cambrian trilobitomorph Naraoia spinosa and its ontogenetic and ecological implicationsTrilobitomorphs are a species-rich Palaeozoic arthropod assemblage that unites trilobites with several other lineages that share similar appendage structure. Post-embryonic development of the exoskeleton is well documented for some trilobitomorphs, especially trilobites, but little is known of the ontogeny of their soft parts, limiting understanding of their autecology. Here, we document appendage structure of the Cambrian naraoiid trilobitomorph Naraoia spinosa by computed microtomography, resulting in three-dimensional reconstructions of appendages at both juvenile and adult stages. The adult has dense, strong spines on the protopods of post-antennal appendages, implying a predatory/scavenging behaviour. The absence of such gnathobasic structures, but instead tiny protopodal bristles and a number of endopodal setae, suggests a detritus-feeding strategy for the juvenile. Our data add strong morphological evidence for ecological niche shifting by Cambrian arthropods during their life cycles. A conserved number of appendages across the sampled developmental stages demonstrates that Naraoia ceased budding off new appendages by the mid-juvenile stage.
Interspecific interactions through 2 million years: are competitive outcomes predictable?Ecological interactions affect the survival and reproduction of individuals. However, ecological interactions are notoriously difficult to measure in extinct populations, hindering our understanding of how the outcomes of interactions such as competition vary in time and influence long-term evolutionary changes. Here, the outcomes of spatial competition in a temporally continuous community over evolutionary timescales are presented for the first time. Our research domain is encrusting cheilostome bryozoans from the Wanganui Basin of New Zealand over a ca 2 Myr time period (Pleistocene to Recent). We find that a subset of species can be identified as consistent winners, and others as consistent losers, in the sense that they win or lose interspecific competitive encounters statistically more often than the null hypothesis of 50%. Most species do not improve or worsen in their competitive abilities through the 2 Myr period, but a minority of species are winners in some intervals and losers in others. We found that conspecifics tend to cluster spatially and interact more often than expected under null hypothesis: most of these are stand-off interactions where the two colonies involved stopped growing at edges of encounter. Counterintuitively, competitive ability has no bearing on ecological dominance.