PerspectivePALEOECOLOGY

Measuring Past Biodiversity

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Science  28 Sep 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5539, pp. 2401-2404
DOI: 10.1126/science.1063789

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Summary

The increase in oceanic biodiversity over the past half billion years is poorly understood despite the great importance of the pattern for understanding the history of life. Compilations of genera from the paleontological literature for the entire Phanerozoic (~540 million years) include only half the number of fossilizable taxa that occur in the oceans today, and the data are highly variable in quality. In their Perspective, Jackson and Johnson argue that a limited number of intensive and consistent sampling projects could maximize our understanding of the overall pattern and trends in past marine biodiversity.

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