Navigation Links
UCSB researcher leads worldwide study on marine fossil diversity

(Santa Barbara, Calif.) - It took a decade of painstaking study, the cooperation of hundreds of researchers, and a database of more than 200,000 fossil records, but John Alroy thinks he's disproved much of the conventional wisdom about the diversity of marine fossils and extinction rates.

Alroy, a researcher with the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) at UC Santa Barbara, is the principal author of a report published in the July 3 edition of Science, "Phanerozoic Trends in the Global Diversity of Marine Invertebrates." A team that included 34 other researchers, who began their work in 1998, coauthored the report.

Alroy's report shows a new curve in the diversity of ancient marine invertebrate species such as clams, sand dollars and lobsters, while also revealing that most of the early propagation of invertebrates took place before the Late Cretaceous period. In addition, the research contends that the increase of those invertebrates in the period since is relatively small when compared to the 100 million years that elapsed.

"There's been 36 years of people arguing about this," Alroy said. "And I feel we finally resolved this debate, which is certainly one of the most high profile debates in the study of diversity of the fossil record.

"This is a big community project," he added. "The only reason we're able to do any of this is we have a very, very, very detailed database (the Paleobiology Database) that is built by a community of people over the Web. We record exactly what hole in the ground each fossil comes from."

By counting fossil records from all over the world, Alroy and his fellow researchers were able to conclude that much of what experts have been saying for the last 40 years might not be accurate. Instead of counting just the first and last instances of fossils, as others had done before, Alroy and his team set out to count them all, examining 284,816 fossil occurrences.

"We only count it where we've actually got it," Alroy said. "Say you're doing biomedical research and you want to know about the prevalence of a disease, say some kind of cancer."

The difference between the old and the new research, he said, would be like "the difference between checking medical records willy-nilly, and computing percentages with a standardized sample."

While the research of other scientists showed eventual recoveries in the diversity of fossils after periods of extinction - especially the extinction 250 million years ago between the Permian and Triassic periods (also known as the "mother of all mass extinctions") - Alroy said this report shows that the number of species comes back up quickly - at least on a geological time scale - and then stays relatively flat.

The data are also interesting, Alroy said, because they document that there have been only three truly major mass extinctions in the fossil record.

"For many years, our community has been saying that there have been five major mass extinctions, and it's gotten into the public consciousness that there's been a 'Big Five,' " Alroy said. "This (the last major spike in fossil diversity records) is supposed to be the sixth major extinction. This is really conventional wisdom, but it's not supported by the new data at all."

Instead, the new results suggest it's only the fourth one over the last half-billion years.


Contact: George Foulsham
University of California - Santa Barbara

Related biology news :

1. Researchers identify proteins involved in new neurodegenerative syndrome
2. Texas researchers and educators head for Antarctica
3. MGH researchers describe new way to identify, evolve novel enzymes
4. University of Pennsylvania researchers develop formula to gauge risk of disease clusters
5. University of Oregon researcher finds that on waters surface, nitric acid is not so tough
6. U of MN researchers discover noninvasive diagnostic tool for brain diseases
7. U of Minnesota researchers discover noninvasive diagnostic tool for brain diseases
8. Researchers discover new strategies for antibiotic resistance
9. Researchers find new taste in fruit flies: carbonated water
10. Binghamton University researchers investigate evolving malaria resistance
11. Antioxidant to retard wrinkles discovered by Hebrew University researcher
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/17/2015)... Mass. , Nov. 17, 2015 Pressure ... leader in the development and sale of broadly enabling, ... worldwide life sciences industry, today announced it has received ... its $5 million Private Placement (the "Offering"), increasing the ... $4,025,000.  One or more additional closings are expected in ...
(Date:11/11/2015)... 11, 2015   MedNet Solutions , an innovative SaaS-based ... research, is pleased to announce that it will be a ... event, to be held November 17-19 in ... live demonstrations of iMedNet , MedNet,s easy-to-use, ... iMedNet has been able to deliver time and cost ...
(Date:11/4/2015)... , November 4, 2015 ... new market report published by Transparency Market Research "Home Security ... Trends and Forecast 2015 - 2022", the global home security ... 30.3 bn by 2022. The market is estimated to ... period from 2015 to 2022. Rising security needs among ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... LUMPUR, Malaysia , Nov. 24, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... global contract research organisation (CRO) market. The trend ... result in lower margins but higher volume share ... increased capacity and scale, however, margins in the ... Research Organisation (CRO) Market ( ), ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... 2015 /CNW/ - iCo Therapeutics ("iCo" or "the Company") ... for the quarter ended September 30, 2015. Amounts, ... and presented under International Financial Reporting Standards ("IFRS"). ... said Andrew Rae , President & CEO ... not only value enriching for this clinical program, ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... 2015  Clintrax Global, Inc., a worldwide provider of clinical research ... announced that the company has set a new quarterly earnings record ... quarter growth posted for Q3 of 2014 to Q3 of 2015. ... Mexico , with the establishment of an Asia-Pacific ... United Kingdom and Mexico ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... Massachusetts , November 24, 2015 SHPG ... will participate in the Piper Jaffray 27 th Annual Healthcare ... Tuesday, December 1, 2015, at 8:30 a.m. EST (1:30 p.m. GMT). ... , Chief Financial Officer, will participate in the Piper Jaffray 27 ... , NY on Tuesday, December 1, 2015, at 8:30 a.m. ...
Breaking Biology Technology: