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Article contents

Calibrating the Ordovician Radiation of marine life: implications for Phanerozoic diversity trends

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 July 2015

Arnold I. Miller
Affiliation:
Department of Geology (ML 13), University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio 45221-0013
Mike Foote
Affiliation:
Department of the Geophysical Sciences, University of Chicago, 5734 South Ellis Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60637

Abstract

It has long been suspected that trends in global marine biodiversity calibrated for the Phanerozoic may be affected by sampling problems. However, this possibility has not been evaluated definitively, and raw diversity trends are generally accepted at face value in macroevolutionary investigations. Here, we analyze a global-scale sample of fossil occurrences that allows us to determine directly the effects of sample size on the calibration of what is generally thought to be among the most significant global biodiversity increases in the history of life: the Ordovician Radiation. Utilizing a composite database that includes trilobites, brachiopods, and three classes of molluscs, we conduct rarefaction analyses to demonstrate that the diversification trajectory for the Radiation was considerably different than suggested by raw diversity time-series. Our analyses suggest that a substantial portion of the increase recognized in raw diversity depictions for the last three Ordovician epochs (the Llandeilian, Caradocian, and Ashgillian) is a consequence of increased sample size of the preserved and catalogued fossil record. We also use biometric data for a global sample of Ordovician trilobites, along with methods of measuring morphological diversity that are not biased by sample size, to show that morphological diversification in this major clade had leveled off by the Llanvirnian. The discordance between raw diversity depictions and more robust taxonomic and morphological diversity metrics suggests that sampling effects may strongly influence our perception of biodiversity trends throughout the Phanerozoic.

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Articles
Copyright
Copyright © The Paleontological Society 

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