Geologic constraints on the macroevolutionary history of marine animals.Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Aug 30; 102(35):12326-31.PN
The causes of mass extinctions and the nature of taxonomic radiations are central questions in paleobiology. Several episodes of taxonomic turnover in the fossil record, particularly the major mass extinctions, are generally thought to transcend known biases in the geologic record and are widely interpreted as distinct macroevolutionary phenomena that require unique forcing mechanisms. Here, by using a previously undescribed compilation of the durations of sedimentary rock sequences, I compare the rates of expansion and truncation of preserved marine sedimentary basins to rates of origination and extinction among Phanerozoic marine animal genera. Many features of the highly variable record of taxonomic first and last occurrences in the marine animal fossil record, including the major mass extinctions, the frequency distribution of genus longevities, and short- and long-term patterns of genus diversity, can be predicted on the basis of the temporal continuity and quantity of preserved sedimentary rock. Although these results suggest that geologically mediated sampling biases have distorted macroevolutionary patterns in the fossil record, preservation biases alone cannot easily explain the extent to which the sedimentary record duplicates paleobiological patterns. Instead, these results suggest that the processes responsible for producing variability in the sedimentary rock record, such as plate tectonics and sea-level change, may have been dominant and consistent macroevolutionary forces throughout the Phanerozoic.