SHARK EXTINCTIONS | from the past to the future
A lot has been said about the predictive power of the fossil record to address the current extinction crisis. Nevertheless, the extent to which fossil species can inform conservation efforts is still unclear. Founded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, and in partnership with with SharkReferences, SHARKS-XT aims to provide a clear link between past extinctions and the conservation of modern species using the abundant shark fossil record.
FATE AND FUNCTION OF MARINE MEGAFAUNA | from the Pliocene to the Anthropocene
Marine megafauna are among the most ecologically important species in the world’s oceans. The modern assemblage established in the Pleistocene, after a major extinction event that eliminated one-third of its diversity. Since then, they have remained virtually intact until now (the Anthropocene), when they face major human-driven pressures that threaten them to extinction. A holistic understanding of the functional ecology of the marine megafaunal assemblage is still lacking. Most importantly, we ignore what is likely to happen to marine megafauna and their associated ecological roles given the extinction crisis we are experiencing.
Funded by the EU and the Welsh government, MECACENE aims to address these knowledge gaps, using novel analyses to establish the structure of marine megafauna functional diversity from the Pliocene until today.
FUNCTIONAL DIVERSITY | extinctions and conservation
The FD project aims to assess how functional diversity changes after extinction events using 1) the fossil record of different marine organisms, from mollusks to sharks and 2) simulations of future extinction scenarios at different spatial scales. We further categorise species according to their contributions to functional diversity and combine this information with IUCN status in a novel metric (FUSE) for the conservation prioritisation toolbox.
GIANTIMSM IN SHARKS | trees and 3D
Megalodon was the largest shark ever, reaching a maximum body size of 18 meters. This apex predator became extinct around 2 million years ago. The whale shark is as large as Megalodon, but it is still around today. How did these giants become so large?
GIANTS studies the evolutionary pathways towards gigantism in sharks by assessing their body size evolution and most recently, by re-constructing the whole body of Megalodon. To do so, we first built a 2D model of its body dimensions, and we are working on a 3D reconstruction of its entire body. We aim to use this information to better understand the intrinsic traits that may have conferred extinction susceptibility to Megalodon.