The spatial structure of Phanerozoic marine animal diversity

Roger A CloseRichard J Butler


The global fossil record of marine animals has fueled long-standing debates about diversity change through time and the drivers of this change. However, the fossil record is not truly global. It varies considerably in geographic scope and in the sampling of environments among intervals of geological time. We account for this variability using a spatially explicit approach to quantify regional-scale diversity through the Phanerozoic. Among-region variation in diversity is comparable to variation through time, and much of this is explained by environmental factors, particularly the extent of reefs. By contrast, influential hypotheses of diversity change through time, including sustained long-term increases, have little explanatory power. Modeling the spatial structure of the fossil record transforms interpretations of Phanerozoic diversity patterns and their macroevolutionary explanations. This necessitates a refocus of deep-time diversification studies.


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