If you want to understand the ecosystem, look at what the species in it eat. By studying food networks, how animals and plants in a community connect through their food preferences, environmentalists can combine how energy flows in an ecosystem, how sustainable it is for climate change, and other disorders.
Exploring ancient food networks can help scientists rebuild communities of species that have long since become extinct, and even use those insights to see how modern communities change in the future. There is just one problem. Only a few species have left enough traces for scientists to find centuries later, leaving large gaps in the fossil record, և researchers’ ability to connect food networks of the past.
“When things die, they are stored as fossils. All things that are not bones, they are teeth, they are shells, they just decay,” said Enn Jennifer Dunn, vice president of science at the Santa Fe Institute, a food veteran research network. “Organisms that are mostly soft-bodied usually disappear altogether.”
Paleo ecologist Jack Ye Shaw’s new article, which is a postgraduate course Yale University who led the study, Dan and other researchers shed light on these gaps and show how to calculate them.
“The missing components of a fossil record, such as the soft body, are huge gaps in understanding ancient ecology, but we have not thought much about how those gaps affect our conclusions,” Shaw said. “We take the fossil record from the face value without thinking critically about how the face value can be stable and accurate.”
Focusing on the absence of soft-bodied taxa in the Fossil Book, a study published Paleobiology January 14 notes that recording these data gaps is vital to a more accurate picture of older food chains. Looking only at fossilized taxa without calculating the loss of soft incarnations in the sands of time, for example, researchers may be mistaken in assuming that the ecological community was built in a different way, less stable than it actually was.
Based on network theory, the researchers were able to show that the inclusion of soft-bodied organisms is vital to a realistic depiction of ancient food networks. They found that the ecological differences between soft-bodied taxa appeared in the Eocene early food web, but not in the very old Cambrian food chains, suggesting that the differences between the groups existed for at least 48 million years.
“Geologists and biologists believe that soft-neat things have clear life habits, where they live or who they eat, but we actually quantify this using network analysis,” says Shaw.
He: Dan hopes that the study will help strengthen future research into the growing field of ancient food chain reconstruction. “This work is really important because it addresses some of the fundamental uncertainties surrounding the fossil record,” says Dunn.
The show notes: “The methodology can be applied to various other biases”, not just the soft body bias. “We hope that we will become more critical of the ancient food chains, possibly opening them up to be stronger. “A better understanding of how ancient food networks have been affected by the turmoil will allow us to better predict what future ecosystems might look like.”
Reference. Jack O. Shaw, Emily Coco, Kate Wootton, Dries Daems, Andrew Gillreath-Brown, Anshuman Swain, Jennifer A. Dunne, Jennifer A. Dunne, January 14, 2021 Paleobiology,
DOI: 10.1017 / page 2020.59