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Science. 2001 Nov 2;294(5544):1091-4.

Preservation of species abundance in marine death assemblages.

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  • 1Department of Geophysical Sciences, University of Chicago, 5734 South Ellis Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637 USA.


Fossil assemblages of skeletal material are thought to differ from their source live communities, particularly in relative abundance of species, owing to potential bias from postmortem transport and time-averaging of multiple generations. However, statistical meta-analysis of 85 marine molluscan data sets indicates that, although sensitive to sieve mesh-size and environment, time-averaged death assemblages retain a strong signal of species' original rank orders. Naturally accumulated death assemblages thus provide a reliable means of acquiring the abundance data that are key to a new generation of paleobiologic and macroecologic questions and to extending ecological time-series via sedimentary cores.

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