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Science. 2000 Jul 7;289(5476):110-2.

An empirical assessment of taxic paleobiology.

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Department of Geoscience, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA.


The analysis of major changes in faunal diversity through time is a central theme of analytical paleobiology. The most important sources of data are literature-based compilations of stratigraphic ranges of fossil taxa. The levels of error in these compilations and the possible effects of such error have often been discussed but never directly assessed. We compared our comprehensive database of trilobites to the equivalent portion of J. J. Sepkoski Jr.'s widely used global genus database. More than 70% of entries in the global database are inaccurate; however, as predicted, the error is randomly distributed and does not introduce bias.

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