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Bias in the published fossil record

  • Carl F. Koch (a1)


The published fossil record has significant bias in favor of common and biostratigraphically important taxa when compared with data obtained from a thorough examination of several hundred collections from the Western Interior of North America. Overall species diversity is underestimated by a factor of 3 to 4, and bivalve and gastropod diversity by a factor of 5. The proportion of bivalves increased from 40 to 56% of the fauna, and the proportion of ammonites decreased from 28 to 18%. Thirteen published reports listed 65 species from 203 reported occurrences. Data from all sources showed 170 species for 1050 occurrences. By using abundance data and assuming a log-normal distribution, as many as 200 fossilizable mollusc species may have inhabited the Western Interior during the uppermost biozone of the Cenomanian. The importance of this study is that it quantifies the bias in the published fossil record relative to the potential fossil record for an unusually well studied interval of geologic time. The bias would be greater for less well studied strata.



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