The Ordovician period was marked by an explosion of marine life. The continents were still connected in a large land mass, which had drifted towards the South Pole. The shallow seas allowed the evolution of many invertebrates including trilobites, brachiopods, and some early marine vertebrates. Cephalopods became a major predator of this new abundant food source, but they first had to solve a few problems, such as how to crack the hard shell. They needed to be able to more around to find and capture these delicacies. The cephalopods had a golden opportunity to expand, and they took advantage of it, developing into the diversity that exists today. The earth underwent many transformations during this period. This research will explore the research question, “How did the explosion of invertebrates affect the development of the feeding anatomy (beak) of the cephalopods?” As a secondary question, this research will ask, “How did the evolution of these feeding portions of the anatomy result in the cephalopods becoming a top predator?” The research will also ask, “What other adaptations did the cephalopods undergo as a result of changing food sources, geological forces, and climate changes during the Ordovician?” Finding the answers to these research questions is the key to understanding cephalopod adaptation.
Now, cephalopods are a group that encompasses hundreds of species. They are found in almost every water in the world and have adapted to a wide variety of climates, except freshwater. Because of their high degree of adaptability, they were able to develop and survive the changes that took place during the Ordovician. Cephalopods are now a commercially important product from the oceans and the earth is once again entering into a period of rapid changes. Understanding the relationships between invertebrate population dynamics and cephalopod adaptation to those changes will help to understand how cephalopods might be affected by the current climate changes. This is an important question to fishing industry and the commercial use of these animals.
The significance of this project is of importance to modern commercial endeavors. It is also important in understanding how cephalopods might adapt to competition for food from humans. For millions of years, cephalopods had little competition for mollusks. Humans now pose competition for traditional food sources of cephalopods and the cephalopods themselves are a human food source. Understanding cephalopod adaptation will help to understand how the overfishing of certain species might affect the ability of another species to survive. Understanding the ability of cephalopods to adapt to their environment will add to our understanding of how to better manage ocean resources. Cephalopods are one of the most important species in the ecosystem. Understanding their past might help to gain a better understanding of their future, as they must once again face changes in the ocean due to climate change and changing ocean dynamics.
This research will explore the cephalopod population through all periods of the Ordovician. The different divisions of the Ordovician saw different events that affected both mollusks and cephalopods. This research will explore the changes throughout all eras of the Ordovician period. It will also explore the changes that took place in the time right before the Ordovician and directly after it. This will help to place the research in context of the precipitating events and the results of the changes during this time period.
Keywords: cephalopods, cephalopods Ordovician, cephalopod evolution, Ordovician extinction, mollusk evolution, cephalopods fishing, cephalopod beak evolution, cephalopod distribution Ordovician.
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