The effect of preservational quality on paleoecologic studies is evaluated quantitatively by using data from 83 fossil collections. These collections are from a restricted Cretaceous time interval (Haustator bilira Assemblage Zone) of Maestrichtian Age and are from the Eastern Gulf Coastal Plain Province. In all, 32,335 specimens were identified, resulting in recognition of 643 different taxa. Each collection was categorized into one of six preservational types, ranging from those in which both aragonite and calcite shells are well preserved to those having only calcite shells preserved.
Statistical comparisons reveal that preservation affects the faunal makeup of these collections. Specifically, collections in which both aragonite and calcite are well preserved have more taxa than collections of poorer preservational quality and contain faunal elements not found in other collections.
These two effects can confound paleoecologic studies of endemism, eurytopy vs. stenotopy, species longevity and other studies of the distribution of organisms in space and time. These effects are especially significant for studies based on presence/absence data, such as published faunal lists and selectively collected samples. In such studies, collections of good preservational quality may be interpreted to represent strata of high diversity, taxa having the more durable hard parts will appear to be widespread and long ranging, and taxa that are preserved only in collections of the best preservational quality will appear stenotopic, endemic, and rare.