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Paleontologists learn how not to become a fossil

uality of the record you're going to include in your analysis," Jablonski said. "Sometimes focusing on the most reliable fraction of the record will be the best way to go."

Second, use all available data, but check to see if the evolutionary patterns they detect are consistent with the distortion of the fossil record. If the patterns run counter to the distortion, then they have probably identified a biological trend so strong that it has overwhelmed the flaws of the fossil record.

Lastly, "we can actually think about ways to correct the record numerically," Jablonski said, adding back the missing varieties in their expected proportions.

The fossil record of other organisms could be assessed in much the same way, Jablonski said, producing a clearer picture of the biological dynamics of the past.

"The gauntlet is down: look at other groups. Look at sea urchins. Look at birds. Look at mammals. Look at flowering plants," he said. "I'd like to think that we've produced a template for analyzing other groups. And of course as those analyses begin to accumulate, we'll have a much clearer picture of what's missing from the fossil record and how to make corrections, producing a clearer picture of the biological dynamics of the past."


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Source:University of Chicago


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