Taxonomic level as a determinant of the shape of the Phanerozoic marine biodiversity curve

The American Naturalist
Abigail Lane, M J Benton


Key aims of recent paleobiological research have been the construction of Phanerozoic global biodiversity patterns and the formulation of models and mechanisms of diversification describing such patterns. Two conflicting theories of global diversification have been equilibrium versus expansionist growth of taxonomic diversity. These models, however, rely on accurate empirical data curves, and it is not clear to what extent the taxonomic level at which the data are analyzed controls the resulting pattern. Global Phanerozoic marine diversity curves are constructed at ordinal, familial, and generic levels using several fossil-range data sets. The fit of a single logistic model reduces from ordinal through familial to generic level, while conversely, that of an exponential growth model increases. Three sequential logistic equations, fitted to three time periods during which diversity appears to approach or reach an equilibrium state, provide the best description of the data at familial and generic levels. However, an exponential growth curve describes the diversification of marine life since the end-Permian extinction equally as well as a logistic. A species-level model of global Phanerozoic marine diversification, constructed by e...Continue Reading


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