I have recently been exploring the correlation of food web reorganization and behavioral changes across the Permian-Triassic boundary as a side project. I wanted to give yall the heads-up on my new publication that's coming out in The Journal of Wizarding Ecology entitled "Grindylows: from Paleozoic Pests to Modern Monsters". Here's a sneak peak!
So far my research shows that grindylow population spikes are positively correlated with dinoflagellate blooms. These bioluminescent blooms are caused by nutrient supersaturation that promotes dinoflagellate sexual reproduction. Grindlows feed off the dinoflagellates - they use their sets of small, sharp teeth for straining out the planktonic matter. They also feed off of fish, and the increase in marine fauna death associated with red tides is actually driven by grindylow feeding frenzies. Part of the warnings about the toxic dangers of red tides is artfully laid propaganda to help keep the International Statute of Secrecy and is regulated by the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures.
However, the main quandary is the evolutionary history of the gridylowidae before the Triassic, when dinoflagellate cysts first enter the rock record. This is where the research gets interesting. The reigning paradigm insists that pre-Triassic (i.e. Paleozoic) gridylowidae taxa represent a ghost lineage - these organisms existed in the ocean, but were not preserved. Taphonomic biases have pointed towards the lack of reproductive cysts before the Triassic yet presence of the actual dinoflagellate organisms; the cysts are what are actually preserved in the rock record.
My hypothesis challenges this paradigm. While the claim that "absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence" is a valid working hypothesis at this point, my research suggests that dinoflagellates did not evolve until the Early Triassic, and their absence in the Paleozoic rock record is a true signal of absence. Isotope and trace element geochemistry reveals no remnants of dinoflagellate biomolecules, cysts, or signs oceanic productivity.
Therefore, the Paleozoic to post-Paleozoic behavioral transition is correlated with a change in food web structure (e.g., a change in grindylow diet). The Permian-Triassic boundary does mark the largest extinction event known in Earth's history, where approximately 95% of life went extinct. Ecosystem reorganization would be mandatory for the survival of organisms across this extinction event. In accordance with my new hypothesis, the P-T extinction event drove a grindylow dietary change, which then drove a behavioral change. The opening of niches in post-extinction ecosystems spurred the evolution and radiation of dinoflagellates, which became one of the major dietary constituents of the grindylow diet.
The next questions that must be asked in accordance with this research are what grindylows were consuming before dinoflagellate evolution; and why this dietary shift escalated grindylow behavioral problems. Preliminary research suggests that chemical changes in the gridylow diet caused behavioral changes. A change from a silica-based diet to organisms with the chemical composition of dinoflagellates could account for behavioral discrepancies.