Climate constrains the evolutionary history and biodiversity of crocodylians

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Philip Mannion
  • Jonathan Tennant
  • Jack Judd
  • Roger Benson
  • Matthew Carrano

Colleges, School and Institutes


The fossil record of crocodylians and their relatives (pseudosuchians) reveals a rich evolutionary history, prompting questions about causes of long-term decline to their present-day low biodiversity. We analyse climatic drivers of subsampled pseudosuchian biodiversity over their 250 million year history, using a comprehensive new dataset. Biodiversity and environmental changes correlate strongly, with long-term decline of terrestrial taxa driven by decreasing temperatures in northern temperate regions, and biodiversity decreases at lower latitudes matching patterns of increasing aridification. However, there is no relationship between temperature and biodiversity for marine pseudosuchians, with sea-level change and post-extinction opportunism demonstrated to be more important drivers. A ‘modern-type’ latitudinal biodiversity gradient might have existed throughout pseudosuchian history, and range expansion towards the poles occurred during warm intervals. Although their fossil record suggests that current global warming might promote long-term increases in crocodylian biodiversity and geographic range, the 'balancing forces' of anthropogenic environmental degradation complicate future predictions.


Original languageEnglish
Article number8438
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 24 Sep 2015