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Article: Faunal response to sea‐level and climate change in a short‐lived seaway: Jurassic of the Western Interior, USA

Palaeontology - Volume 60 Part 2 - Cover
Publication: Palaeontology
Volume: 60
Part: 2
Publication Date: March 2017
Page(s): 213 232
Author(s): Silvia Danise, and Steven M. Holland
Addition Information

How to Cite

DANISE, S., HOLLAND, S.M. 2017. Faunal response to sea‐level and climate change in a short‐lived seaway: Jurassic of the Western Interior, USA. Palaeontology, 60, 2, 213-232. DOI: 10.1111/pala.12278

Author Information

  • Silvia Danise - Department of Geology University of Georgia Athens GA USA (Email:
  • Silvia Danise - School of Geography, Earth & Environmental Sciences Plymouth University Plymouth UK
  • Steven M. Holland - Department of Geology University of Georgia Athens GA USA (Email:

Publication History

  • Issue published online: 22 February 2017
  • Manuscript Accepted: 05 January 2017
  • Manuscript Received: 29 October 2016

Funded By

Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellowships for Career Development. Grant Number: PIOF‐GA‐2013‐624040

Online Version Hosted By

Wiley Online Library (Open Access)
Get Article: Wiley Online Library [Open Access]


Understanding how regional ecosystems respond to sea‐level and environmental perturbations is a main challenge in palaeoecology. Here we use quantitative abundance estimates, integrated within a sequence stratigraphic and environmental framework, to reconstruct benthic community changes through the 13 myr history of the Jurassic Sundance Seaway in the western United States. Sundance Seaway communities are notable for their low richness and high dominance relative to most areas globally in the Jurassic, and this probably reflects steep temperature and salinity gradients along the 2000 km length of the Seaway that hindered colonization of species from the open ocean. Ordination of samples shows a main turnover event at the Middle–Upper Jurassic transition, which coincided with a shift from carbonate to siliciclastic depositional systems in the Seaway, probably initiated by northward drift from subtropical latitudes to more humid temperate latitudes, and possibly global cooling. Turnover was not uniform across the onshore–offshore gradient, but was higher in offshore environments. The higher resilience of onshore communities to third‐order sea‐level fluctuations and to the change from a carbonate to a siliciclastic system was driven by a few abundant eurytopic species that persisted from the opening to the closing of the Seaway. Lower stability in offshore facies was instead controlled by the presence of more volatile stenotopic species. Such increased onshore stability in community composition contrasts with the well‐documented onshore increase in taxonomic turnover rates, and this study underscores how ecological analyses of relative abundance may contrast with taxonomically based analyses. We also demonstrate the importance of a stratigraphic palaeobiological approach to reconstructing the links between environmental and faunal gradients, and how their evolution through time produces local stratigraphic changes in community composition.

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