Skip to main content Accessibility help

Theoretical diversity of the marine biosphere

  • Michał Kowalewski (a1) and Seth Finnegan (a2)


In considering the history of biodiversity paleontologists have focused on exploratory investigations of empirical data derived from the fossil record. Starting with the pioneering work of Philips (1860), and continuing at an increasing pace through today, this inductive approach has dominated diversity research. In contrast, deductive theoretical considerations that focus on the expected history of biodiversity, and develop independently of empirical knowledge, have remained under-explored. Appreciating the need for a nomothetic paleobiology (Gould 1980), we here reconsider the history of biodiversity, using deductive models constrained by a few, self-evident parameters. This analysis centers on the marine fossil record, the primary target of most previous empirical studies on the geological history of global biodiversity (e.g., Valentine 1969; Raup 1972, 1976; Sepkoski et al. 1981; Alroy et al. 2008).



Hide All
Allen, A. P., Brown, J. H., and Gillooly, J. F. 2002. Global biodiversity, biochemical kinetics, and the energetic-equivalence rule. Science 297:15451548.
Allison, P. A., and Briggs, D. E. G. 1993. Paleolatitudinal sampling bias, Phanerozoic species-diversity, and the end-Permian extinction. Geology 21:6568.
Alroy, J., Marshall, C. R., Bambach, R. K., Bezusko, K., Foote, M., Fürsich, F. T., Hansen, T. A., Holland, S. M., Ivany, L. C., Jablonski, D., Jacobs, D. K., Jones, D. C., Kosnik, M. A., Lidgard, S., Low, S., Miller, A., Novack-Gottshall, P. M., Olszewski, T. D., Patzkowsky, M. E., Raup, D. M., Roy, K., Sepkoski, J. J. Jr., Sommers, M. G., Wagner, P. J., and Webber, A. 2001. Effects of sampling standardization on estimates of Phanerozoic marine diversification. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 98:62616266.
Alroy, J., Aberhan, M., Bottjer, D. J., Foote, M., Fürsich, F. T., Harries, P. J., Hendy, A. J W., Holland, S. M., Ivany, L. C., Kiessling, W., Kosnik, M. A., Marshall, C. R., McGowan, A. J., Miller, A. I., Olszewski, T. D., Patzkowsky, M. E., Peters, S. E., Villier, L., Wagner, P. J., Bonuso, N., Borkow, P. S., Brenneis, B., Clapham, M. E., Fall, L. M., Ferguson, C. A., Hanson, V. L., Krug, A. Z., Layou, K. M., Leckey, E. H., Nuernberg, S., Powers, C. M., Sessa, J. A., Simpson, C., Tomašových, A., and Visaggi, C. C. 2008. Phanerozoic trends in the global diversity of marine invertebrates. Science 321:97100.
Bambach, R. K. 1977. Species richness in marine benthic habitats through the Phanerozoic. Paleobiology 3:152167.
Bambach, R. K. 1999. Energetics in the global marine fauna: a connection between terrestrial diversification and change in the marine biosphere. Geobios 32:131144.
Bambach, R. K., Bush, A. M., and Erwin, D. H. 2007. Autecology and the filling of ecospace: key metazoan radiations. Palaeontology 50:122.
Belgrano, A., Allen, A. P., Enquist, B. J., and Gillooly, J. F. 2002. Allometric scaling of maximum population density: a common rule for marine phytoplankton and terrestrial plants. Ecology Letters 5:611613.
Benton, M. J. 1995. Diversification and extinction in the history of life. Science 268:5258.
Bouchet, P., Lozouet, P., Maestrati, P., and Heros, V. 2002. Assessing the magnitude of species richness in tropical marine environments: exceptionally high numbers of molluscs at a New Caledonia site. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 75:421436.
Bouchet, P., Lozouet, P., and Sysoev, A. 2009. An inordinate fondness for turrids. Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography 56:17241731.
Bush, A. M., and Bambach, R. K. 2004. Did alpha diversity increase during the Phanerozoic? Lifting the veil of taphonomic, latitudinal, and environmental biases in the study of paleocommunities. Journal of Geology 112:625642.
Cherns, L. V. P., and Wright, P. 2000. Missing molluscs as evidence of large-scale, early skeletal aragonite dissolution in a Silurian sea. Geology 28:791794.
Chow, S. S., Wilke, C. O., Ofria, C., Lenski, R. E., and Adami, C. 2004. Adaptive radiation from resource competition in digital organisms. Science 305:8486.
Clarke, A., and Gaston, K. J. 2006. Climate, energy and diversity. Proceeding of the Royal Society of London B 273:22572266.
Cohen, J. E. 1995. How many people can the Earth support? Norton, New York.
Damuth, J. 1981. Population-density and body size in mammals. Nature 290:699700.
Damuth, J. 1987. Interspecific allometry of population density in mammals and other animals. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 31:193246.
Drake, F., and Sobel, D. 1992. Is anyone out there? The scientific search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Delacorte, New York.
Dugan, J. E., Hubbard, D. M., and Page, H. M. 1995. Scaling population density to body size: tests in two soft-sediment intertidal communities. Journal of Coastal Research 11:849857.
Erwin, D. H. 2008. Macroevolution of ecosystem engineering, niche construction and diversity. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 23:304310.
Finnegan, S., and Droser, M. L. 2005. Relative and absolute abundance of trilobites and rhynchonelliform brachiopods across the Lower/Middle Ordovician boundary, eastern Basin and Range. Paleobiology 31:480502.
Garrison, T. 2005. Oceanography: an invitation to marine science. Thomson Brooks/Cole, Belmont, Calif.
Gould, S. J. 1980. The promise of paleobiology as a nomothetic, evolutionary discipline. Paleobiology 6:96118.
Grassle, J. F., and Maciolek, N. J. 1992. Deep-sea species richness: regional and local diversity estimates from quantitative bottom samples. American Naturalist 139:313341.
Hendy, A. J. W. 2009. The influence of lithification on Cenozoic marine biodiversity trends. Paleobiology 35:5162.
Holland, S. M. 1995. The stratigraphic distribution of fossils. Paleobiology 21:92109.
Huber, H., Hohn, M. J., Rachel, R., Fuchs, T., Wimmer, V. C., and Stetter, K. O. 2002. A new phylum of Archaea represented by a nanosized hyperthermophilic symbiont. Nature 417:6367.
Hunt, G., Cronin, T. M., and Roy, K. 2005. Species-energy relationship in the deep sea: a test using the Quaternary fossil record. Ecology Letters 8:739747.
Huntley, J. W., and Kowalewski, M. 2007. Strong coupling of predation intensity and diversity in the Phanerozoic fossil record. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 104:1500615010.
Jablonski, D., Roy, K., and Valentine, J. W. 2003. The impact of the pull of the recent on the history of marine diversity. Science 300:11331135.
Kerr, S. R., and Dickie, L. M. 2001. The biomass spectrum: a predator-prey theory of aquatic production. Columbia University Press, New York.
Kowalewski, M., and Flessa, K. W. 1996. Improving with age: the fossil record of lingulide brachiopods and the nature of taphonomic megabiases. Geology 24:977980.
Kowalewski, M., Kiessling, W., Aberhan, M., Fürsich, F. T., Scarponi, D., Barbour Wood, S. L., and Hoffmeister, A. P. 2006. Ecological, taxonomic, and taphonomic components of the post-Paleozoic increase in sample-level species diversity of marine benthos. Paleobiology 32:533561.
Lambshead, P. J. 1993. Recent developments in marine benthic biodiversity research. Océanis 19:524.
MacArthur, R.W., and Wilson, E. O. 1967. The equilibrium theory of island biogeography. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J.
Marquet, P. A., Navarrete, S. A., and Castilla, J. C. 1990. Scaling population density to body size in rocky intertidal communities. Science 250:11251127.
McShea, D. W. 1994. Mechanisms of large-scale evolutionary trends. Evolution 48:17471763.
Niklas, K. J. 1997. Effects of hypothetical developmental barriers and abrupt environmental changes on adaptive walks in a computer-generated domain for early vascular land plants. Paleobiology 23:6376.
Payne, J. L., Lehrmann, D. J., Wei, J., and Knoll, A. H. 2006. The pattern and timing of biotic recovery from the end-Permian extinction on the Great Bank of Guizhou, Guizhou Province, China. Palaios 21:6385.
Payne, J. L., Boyer, A. G., Brown, J. H., Finnegan, S., Kowalewski, M., Krause, R. A. Jr., Lyons, S. K., McClain, C. R., McShea, D. W., Novack-Gottshall, P. M., Smith, F. A., Stempien, J. A., and Wang, S. C. 2009. Two-phase increase in the maximum size of life over 3.5 billion years reflects biological innovation and environmental opportunity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 106:2427.
Peters, S. E. 2006. Macrostratigraphy of North America. Journal of Geology 114:391412.
Peters, S. E., and Foote, M. 2001. Biodiversity in the Phanerozoic: a reinterpretation. Paleobiology 27:583601.
Phillips, J. 1860. Life on the earth; its origin and succession. Macmillan, Cambridge.
Powell, M. G. 2007. Latitudinal diversity gradients for brachiopod genera during late Palaeozoic time: links between climate, biogeography and evolutionary rates. Global Ecology and Biogeography 16:519528.
Powell, M. G., and Kowalewski, M. 2002. Increase in evenness and sampled alpha diversity through the Phanerozoic: comparison of early Paleozoic and Cenozoic marine fossil assemblages. Geology 30:331334
Raup, D. M. 1966. Geometric analysis of shell coiling; general problems. Journal of Paleontology 40:11781190.
Raup, D. M. 1972. Taxonomic diversity during the Phanerozoic. Science 177:10651071.
Raup, D. M. 1976. Species diversity in the Phanerozoic: an interpretation. Paleobiology 2:289297.
Raup, D. M., and Sheehan, P. M. 1977. Species diversity in the Phanerozoic: a reflection of labor by systematists? Systematists follow the fossils. Paleobiology 3:325329.
Roy, K., Jablonski, D., and Valentine, J. W. 2000. Dissecting latitudinal diversity gradients: functional groups and clades of marine bivalves. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 267:293299.
Sala, E., and Knowlton, N. 2006. Global marine biodiversity trends. Annual Review of Environment and Resources 31:93122.
Schopf, T. J. M. 1974. Permo-Triassic extinctions: relation to sea-floor spreading. Journal of Geology 82:129143.
Seilacher, A. 1974. Fossil-Vergesellschaftungen 20, flysch trace fossils: evolution of behavioural diversity in the deep-sea. Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie, Monatshefte 4:233245.
Sepkoski, J. J. Jr. 1981. A factor analytic description of the Phanerozoic marine fossil record. Paleobiology 7:3653.
Sepkoski, J. J. Jr. 1984. A kinetic model of Phanerozoic taxonomic diversity. III. Post-Paleozoic families and mass extinctions. Paleobiology 10:246267.
Sepkoski, J. J. Jr. 1993. Ten years in the library: new data confirm paleontological patterns. Paleobiology 19:4351.
Sepkoski, J. J. Jr. 2002. A compendium of fossil marine animal genera. Bulletins of American Paleontology 363:1560.
Sepkoski, J. J. Jr., Bambach, R. K., Raup, D. M., and Valentine, J. W. 1981. Phanerozoic marine diversity: a strong signal from the fossil record. Nature 293:435437.
Sessa, J. A., Patzkowsky, M. E., and Bralower, T. J. 2009. The impact of lithification on the diversity, size distribution, and recovery dynamics of marine invertebrate assemblages. Geology 37:115118.
Smith, A. B., and McGowan, A. J. 2007. The shape of the Phanerozoic marine palaeodiversity curve: how much can be predicted from the sedimentary rock record of Western Europe? Palaeontology 50:765774.
Stanley, S. M. 2007. An analysis of the history of marine animal diversity. Paleobiology Memoir 4. Paleobiology 33(Suppl. to No. 4).
Stanley, S. M., and Hardie, L. A. 1998. Secular oscillations in the carbonate mineralogy of reef-building and sediment-producing organisms driven by tectonically forced shifts in seawater chemistry. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 144:319.
Stanley, S. M., and Powell, M. G. 2003. Depressed rates of origination and extinction during the late Paleozoic ice age: a new state for the global marine ecosystem. Geology 31:877880.
Tomašových, A., and Kidwell, S. M. 2009. Fidelity of variation in species composition and diversity partitioning by death assemblages: time-averaging transfers diversity from beta to alpha. Paleobiology 35:94118.
Torrella, F., and Morita, R. Y. 1981. Microcultural study of bacterial size changes and microcolony and ultramicrocolony formation by heterotrophic bacteria in seawater. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 41:518527.
Trotter, J. A., Williams, I. S., Barnes, C. R., Lecuyer, C., and Nicoll, R. S. 2008. Did cooling oceans trigger Ordovician biodiversification? Evidence from conodont thermometry. Science 321:550554.
Valentine, J. W. 1969. Patterns of taxonomic and ecological structure of the shelf benthos during Phanerozoic time. Palaeontology 12:684709.
Vermeij, G. J. 1987. Evolution and escalation; an ecological history of life. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J.
Wagner, P. J., Kosnik, M. A., and Lidgard, S. 2006. Abundance distributions imply elevated complexity of post-Paleozoic marine ecosystems. Science 314:12891292.

Theoretical diversity of the marine biosphere

  • Michał Kowalewski (a1) and Seth Finnegan (a2)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed