Dr. Carrie L. Tyler

Assistant Professor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas

e-mail: carrie.tyler at unlv.edu


Biologists attempting to conserve and restore eroded underwater environments are limited by their scant knowledge of what those habitats looked like before humans arrived. For decades, scientists have had to rely on the fossils of one particular group of animals — mollusks, which are found in plentiful abundance — for clues.

But a new study published today in the journal PeerJ has confirmed a reliable analogue of modern marine ecosystems that lie just beneath the surface. The results suggest that fossils from a wide range of marine groups — including worms, mollusks, crabs, and sea urchins — are preserved at nearly the same proportions of abundance and diversity as their living counterparts. This provides scientists with a more complete catalog of fossilized remains to work with when researching the oceans’ depths.

The findings are significant, researchers said, because the ability to compare ancient and modern ecosystems gives scientists greater insight into the specific ways that a marine habitat's history might influence future conservation strategies. Diversity in the fossil record also helps pinpoint the specific sustainability needs unique to different regions. 

“Most of what we know, in terms of biases in the fossil record, is based on mollusks,” said lead author Carrie Tyler, a marine conservation paleobiologist and professor of geoscience at UNLV. “We designed our study to determine whether those biases are consistent when you include many types of organisms, not just mollusks. Is the fossil record still reliable when you have worms and sea urchins and all other groups in a marine ecosystem?”

Continue reading the article here

What a tangled web we weave. Well, when it comes to the climate crisis' impact on marine food webs, we apparently didn't know the half of it. That’s according to a new UNLV study which compared ancient and modern ocean ecosystems in a bid to understand how to make them healthier and more resilient.

Some scientists claim that food webs in the oceans have seen very little change over the last 540 million or so years. However, a team of UNLV researchers has revealed that some ancient food webs were actually very different from today.  

The study, published in the latest edition of the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, used fossils to rebuild four different marine food webs from the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth over 65 million years ago. The food webs were also compared to a reconstructed food web from a modern Jamaican reef. The result? The four ancient food webs varied greatly from one another, and the youngest one was not the most similar to today’s Jamaican coral reefs. 

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Invasions Alter Late Ordovician Food Web Structure

Recent graduate students, Hannah Kempf and Ian Castro's research on the effects of biotic invasions on food web structure in shallow marine communities was published this week in Paleobiology.

Read the article here:  https://doi.org/10.1017/pab.2020.26

Figure 2. Food webs. Trophic guild food webs for the pre-invasion paleocommunity (a) and post-invasion paleocommunity (b). Circles are trophic guilds, connected by grey lines representing consumer-resource interactions. Images in circles represent the most diverse clade within that guild, and are not the only type of organisms in any given guild. Trophic guilds are arranged by module (compartment) along the x-axis, and increasing ntp along the y-axis, and color intensity indicates increasing species richness within guilds. Guild names are abbreviated as follows: Pred = Predator, SFd = Suspension Feeder, Om zoopl = Omnivorous micro-zooplankton, Detvr = Detritivore, Gzr = Grazer, Photoaut = Photoautotroph. Roman numerals following guild names indicate similar types of functional guilds with distinct interactions (i.e., although functionally similar, guilds could not be aggregated due to different consumer-resource relationships). Guilds outlined in red are present pre-invasion, but absent post-invasion, and the guild outlined in green is unique to the post-invasion food web. Links between trophic guilds are orange if they are linked directly to detritus, and there is a decrease in the number of guilds linked to detritus in the post-invasion food web.

Cover Feature

Recent graduate student, Lyndsey Farrar's research was featured on the cover of PALAIOS

Read the article here: https://doi.org/10.2110/palo.2019.088

Dr. Tyler Receives National Science Foundation CAREER Grant to Study Ancient Invasion Dynamics

Biotic invasions can trigger ecosystem restructuring and alter energy transfer pathways. However, as data before invasion are rare, changes in community structure and functioning are difficult to quantify, and changes in structure and functioning remain poorly understood. The Cincinnati Series (USA) preserves a well-documented influx of species which will be used to construct five food web models of shallow marine paleocommunities from the Late Ordovician (Katian) before, during, and after the ‘Richmondian Invasion’ to test hypotheses determining the effects of biotic immigrations on ecosystem structure and functioning. As ocean temperatures continue to rise, polar communities are expected to undergo widespread invasions in the near future. As polar ecosystems are in many ways functionally analogous to Paleozoic ecosystems, a modern Antarctic marine food web model will also be constructed to provide insight into the consequences of anticipated immigrations and invasions expected to occur. These data will also provide crucial insights into the drivers of the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event, one of the most significant prolonged increases of marine diversity in Earth’s history.

Undergraduate Jenn Davis Selected as a Barret Dean's Scholar

Jenn Davis Awarded an Undergraduate Summer Scholarship

Jenn is reconstructing a marine food web from the Late Cretaceous of the western Tethys.

Lyndsey Farrar Awarded the Miami University Geology Graduate Student Research Award

Lyndsey is working on identifying and characterizing traces of biotic interactions on fossil echinoids.

Cover Feature

Dr. Tyler's research was recently featured on the cover of PALAIOS

Read the article here: https://doi.org/10.2110/palo.2018.046

Hot off the Presses!

The latest version of Topics in Geobiology is out, edited by Dr. Tyler. Browse the book, or check out chapters written by Dr Tyler:

Tyler, C.L., Schneider, C.L., (Eds.) 2018. Marine Conservation Paleobiology, Springer Verlag, Cham.

Tyler, C.L., 2018. A conceptual map of conservation paleobiology: visualizing a discipline. Marine Conservation Paleobiology, C.L. Tyler and C.L. Schneider (Eds.), Springer Verlag, Cham, p227-254.

Tyler, C.L., Schneider, C.L., 2018. Conservation paleobiology: the need for a paleontological perspective. Marine Conservation Paleobiology, C.L. Tyler and C.L. Schneider (Eds.), Springer Verlag, Cham, p1-10.

Undergraduate Hannah Kempf Named Goldwater Scholar

Read the full story here 

To assess marine community response to environmental and anthropogenic change, we must understand spatial heterogeneity in present-day and preindustrial ecosystems. As previous studies predominantly utilize single higher taxa, here we evaluate the validity of using single taxa, such as mollusks, as surrogates for entire marine invertebrate communities and as       paleontological     proxies.  Results suggests that single groups can serve as reliable community proxies, and that spatial fidelity of death assemblages is high. Therefore, integrated analyses of ecological and paleontological data utilizing surrogate taxa can quantify anthropogenic changes in marine ecosystems and advance our understanding of spatial and temporal aspects of biodiversity.

Dr. Tyler featured by Miami University's Office of the Advancement of Research and Scholarship

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Predators often leave distinct marks on prey skeletons, including tooth marks, fractures, scars, and drill holes. Fossils that contain those distinct marks can be used to explore the role of predation over the span of millions of years. To date, research on the fossil record of predation has centered mainly on mollusks: snails, clams, and their relatives. The proposed project will expand the history of 

predation beyond mollusks, and assess the impact of predation on sea urchins, sand dollars, and other echinoids.

Echinoids are a commercially important group of animals and a major food source for many marine predators. This project aims to develop a global reference system for identifying traces left by predators on echinoid prey, which is expected to stimulate echinoid research on both modern and ancient ecosystems. Once assembled, the database will then be used to study the impact of predators on the evolution of echinoids over the last 100 million years, during which, they have diversified and become a critical part of the marine biosphere.

Neontological museum collections in conjunction with the literature will be used to codify trace characteristics of various types of interactions (predation, parasitism, commensalism, etc.) that affect modern echinoids. The resultant database will include data on the identity/ecology of trace makers, identity/ecology/phylogeny of affected echinoids, and morphology, frequency, and distribution of traces. The database will then be used to explore the fossil record, and evaluate hypotheses regarding the relative evolutionary importance of select types of biotic interactions affecting the ecology and evolutionary history of echinoids.

Dr. Tyler's research featured in the Deep Sea News! 

Take a look a the article "Celebrity Wax Sculptures for Snails"

Read the original paper published in the Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom "The Utility of Wax Replicas as a Measure of Crab Attack Frequency in the Rocky Intertidal"