How many dinosaurs were there? True richness estimated using a Poisson sampling model (TRiPS)

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Jostein Starrfelt, Lee Hsiang Liow


The fossil record is a rich source of information about biological diversity in the past. However, the fossil record is not only incomplete but has inherent biases due to geological, physical, chemical and biological factors such that not all individuals or species are equally likely to be discovered at any point in time or space. In order to use the fossil record to reconstruct temporal dynamics of diversity, biased sampling must be explicitly taken into account. Here, we introduce an approach that utilizes the variation in the number of times each species is observed in the fossil record to estimate both sampling bias and true richness. We term our technique TRiPS (True Richness estimated using a Poisson Sampling model) and explore its robustness to violation of its assumptions via simulations before applying it to an empirical dataset. We then venture to estimate sampling bias and absolute species richness of dinosaurs in the geological stages of the Mesozoic. Using TRiPS, we present new estimates of species richness trajectories of the three major dinosaur clades; the sauropods, ornithischians and theropods, casting doubt on the Jurassic-Cretaceous extinction event and demonstrating that all dinosaur groups are subject to c...Continue Reading

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