Mesozoic Marine Revolution


The Mesozoic is characterized by a dramatic diversification of marine invertebrates and vertebrates. This affected both the existing marine ecosystems and the modern ecosystems that subsequently developed. Causes of the diversification include the end‐Permian and Early Triassic mass extinctions, continental break‐up, oceanic partitioning and sea‐level fluctuations.

Keywords: mesozoic; duophageous; mean seas; mass extinction

Figure 1.

(a) Early Triassic plate reconstruction showing the extent of the large landmass Pangea. Palaeogeographic maps modified from C.R. Scotese (1997), PALEOMAP Project, University of Texas at Arlington [http:/].

(b) Latest Cretaceous plate reconstruction showing the development of modern oceans from the break‐up of Pangea. Palaeogeographic maps modified from C.R. Scotese (1997), PALEOMAP Project, University of Texas at Arlington, [].

Figure 2.

Diversification of Families through the Mesozoic in context with the Phanerozoic (data from Benton, ).



Benton MJ (1993) The Fossil Record, vol. 2. London: Chapman & Hall.

Duffin CJ (1998) Ostenoselache stenosoma n.g.n.sp., a new neoselachian shark from the Sinemurian (Early Jurassic) of Osteno (Lombardy, Italy). Paleontologia Lombarda 9: 71–99.

Erwin DH (1993) The Great Paleozoic Crisis: Life and Death in the Permian. Critical Moments in Paleobiology and Earth History Series. New York: Columbia University Press.

Frakes LA, Francis JE and Syktus JI (1992) Climate Modes of the Phanerozoic – the History of the Earth's Climate over the Past 600 Million Years. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hallam A (1996) Recovery of the marine fauna in Europe after the end‐Triassic and early Toarcian mass extinctions. In: Hart MB (ed.) Biotic Recovery from Mass Extinction Events. Geological Society Special Publication, vol. 102, pp. 213–236. London: Geological Society.

Hotinski RM, Bice KL, Kump LR, Najjar EG and Arthur MA (2001) Ocean Stagnation and end Permian anoxia. Geology 29: 7–10.

Kauffman EG and Kesling RV (1960) An Upper Cretaceous ammonite bitten by a mesosaur. Contributions of the Museum of Paleontology University of Michigan 15: 193–248.

Lipps JH (1993) Fossil Prokaryotes and Protists. Oxford: Blackwell Scientific Publications.

Vermeij GJ (1987) Evolution and Escalation: An Ecological History of Life. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Wood R (1995) The changing biology of reef‐building. Palaios 10: 517–529.

Further Reading

Bambach RK (1977) Species richness in marine benthic habitats through the Phanerozoic. Paleobiology 3: 152–167.

Barrera C and Johnson C (1999) Evolution of the Cretaceous Ocean–climate system. Geological Society of America Special Paper 332: 1–45.

Harper E (1998) Taphonomy and the Mesozoic Marine Revolution. Palaios 13: 4–16.

Sander PM (2000) Ichthyosauria: their diversity, distribution, and phylogeny. Palaontologische Zeitschrift 74: 1–35.

Scotese CF (1997) Continental Drift, 7th edn. PALEOMAP Project. Arlington, TX: Arlington Press.

Sepkoski JJ (1992) Phylogenetic and ecological patterns in the Phanerozoic history of marine diversity. In: Eldredge N (ed.) Systematics, Ecology and the Biodiversity Crisis, pp. 77–100. New York: Columbia University Press.

Valentine JW (1985) Phanerozoic Diversity Patterns. Profiles in Macroevolution. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Vermeij GJ (1994) The evolutionary interaction among species: selection, escalation and coevolution. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 25: 219–236.

Contact Editor close
Submit a note to the editor about this article by filling in the form below.

* Required Field

How to Cite close
Gregory, F John(Mar 2002) Mesozoic Marine Revolution. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0001645]