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Macrostratigraphy and Its Promise for Paleobiology

  • Shanan E. Peters (a1)


Macrostratigraphy is the study and statistical analysis of sediment packages that formed continuously at a specified scale of temporal resolution and that are bound by gaps recognizable at that same scale. The temporal ranges of gap-bound packages, compiled separately for different geographic locations, permit area-weighted, survivorship-based measures of rock quantity and spatio-temporal environmental continuity to be measured. Analytical basin fill models suggest that the parameters controlling sedimentation and sequence stratigraphic architecture, such as base level and sediment supply, can be detected quantitatively by macrostratigraphy.

Macrostratigraphic analysis of the marine sedimentary rock record in the United States at a temporal resolution of ~106 years reproduces most of the well-known Sloss sequences, but it also identifies two prominent megasequences, the Paleozoic and Modern megasequences, which are separated by a Permian-Triassic discontinuity and Phanerozoic minimum in rock quantity. Many short- and long-term features of the macroevolutionary history of marine animals are reproduced by macrostratigraphy, including 1) many patterns in genus richness, 2) patterns in rates of genus extinction and, to a lesser degree, rates of origination, and 3) patterns of extinction selectivity and the shifting relative richness of Sepkoski's Paleozoic and Modern evolutionary faunas. The extent to which macrostratigraphy reproduces the macroevolutionary history of marine animals transcends what is expected by geologically-controlled sampling biases. Instead, the processes which control the spatio-temporal dynamics of shelf sedimentation, including expansions and contractions of shallow epicontinental seas, have probably exerted a consistent influence on the macroevolutionary history of marine animals. Exploring the common cause hypothesis by putting fossils back into rocks and rocks into a new quantitative framework for physical environmental change holds considerable promise for paleobiology.



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Macrostratigraphy and Its Promise for Paleobiology

  • Shanan E. Peters (a1)


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