Spatial bias in the marine fossil record

PloS One
Daril A Vilhena, Andrew B Smith


Inference of past and present global biodiversity requires enough global data to distinguish biological pattern from sampling artifact. Pertinently, many studies have exposed correlated relationships between richness and sampling in the fossil record, and methods to circumvent these biases have been proposed. Yet, these studies often ignore paleobiogeography, which is undeniably a critical component of ancient global diversity. Alarmingly, our global analysis of 481,613 marine fossils spread throughout the Phanerozoic reveals that where localities are and how intensively they have been sampled almost completely determines empirical spatial patterns of richness, suggesting no separation of biological pattern from sampling pattern. To overcome this, we analyze diversity using occurrence records drawn from two discrete paleolatitudinal bands which cover the bulk of the fossil data. After correcting the data for sampling bias, we find that these two bands have similar patterns of richness despite markedly different spatial coverage. Our findings suggest that i) long-term diversity trends result from large-scale tectonic evolution of the planet, ii) short-term diversity trends are region-specific, and iii) paleodiversity studies mus...Continue Reading


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Marine Hydrobiology
Sampling Error
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