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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 May 22;98(11):6261-6. Epub 2001 May 15.

Effects of sampling standardization on estimates of Phanerozoic marine diversification.

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National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93101-3351, USA.


Global diversity curves reflect more than just the number of taxa that have existed through time: they also mirror variation in the nature of the fossil record and the way the record is reported. These sampling effects are best quantified by assembling and analyzing large numbers of locality-specific biotic inventories. Here, we introduce a new database of this kind for the Phanerozoic fossil record of marine invertebrates. We apply four substantially distinct analytical methods that estimate taxonomic diversity by quantifying and correcting for variation through time in the number and nature of inventories. Variation introduced by the use of two dramatically different counting protocols also is explored. We present sampling-standardized diversity estimates for two long intervals that sum to 300 Myr (Middle Ordovician-Carboniferous; Late Jurassic-Paleogene). Our new curves differ considerably from traditional, synoptic curves. For example, some of them imply unexpectedly low late Cretaceous and early Tertiary diversity levels. However, such factors as the current emphasis in the database on North America and Europe still obscure our view of the global history of marine biodiversity. These limitations will be addressed as the database and methods are refined.

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