The distribution of species abundance (number of individuals per species) is well documented. The distribution of species occurrence (number of localities per species), however, has received little attention. This study investigates the distribution of species occurrence for five large data sets. For modern benthic foraminifera, species occurrence is examined from the Atlantic continental margin of North America, where 875 species were recorded 10,017 times at 542 localities, the Gulf of Mexico, where 848 species were recorded 18,007 times at 426 localities, and the Caribbean, where 1149 species were recorded 6684 times at 268 localities. For Late Cretaceous molluscs, species occurrence is examined from the Gulf Coast where 716 species were recorded 6236 times at 166 localities and a subset of this data consisting of 643 species recorded 3851 times at 86 localities.
Logseries and lognormal distributions were fitted to these data sets. In most instances the logseries best predicts the distribution of species occurrence. The lognormal, however, also fits the data fairly well, and, in one instance, better. The use of these distributions allows the prediction of the number of species occurring once, twice, …, n times.
Species abundance data are also available for the molluscan data sets. They indicate that the most abundant species (greatest number of individuals) usually occur most frequently. In all data sets approximately half the species occur four or less times. The probability of noting the presence of rarely occurring species is small, and, consequently, such species must be used with extreme caution in studies requiring knowledge of the distribution of species in space and time.