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Data from: Variable preservation potential and richness in the fossil record of vertebrates

Cite this dataset

Walker, Fiona; Dunhill, Alexander M.; Benton, Michael (2019). Data from: Variable preservation potential and richness in the fossil record of vertebrates [Dataset]. Dryad.


Variation in preservation and sampling probability clouds our estimates of past biodiversity. The most extreme examples are Lagerstätten faunas and floras, or Biotas as they are referred to in China. Although such deposits provide a wealth of information for palaeontologists and are closer to representing true richness than other deposits of a similar scale, they add a disproportionate number of taxa to wider richness counts because of their exceptional preservation, creating diversity peaks that might be mistaken for diversification events. Here, we investigate how formations that have previously been described as, or as hosting, Lagerstätten add to time series of vertebrate richness in the UK, Germany and China, the former two representing well-studied fossil records and the latter representing a region where collecting has a much shorter history. In fact, Lagerstätten do not drive all dramatic peaks in richness curves and the proportion of taxa that are unique to Lagerstätten varies through time and between countries. Lagerstätten uniquely contain a larger proportion of China’s sampled richness than in Germany and the UK, despite comprising a smaller proportion of fossiliferous deposits in China. Additionally, there is little overlap between the taxa occurring in Lagerstätten and “ordinary” formations within the same time bin, indicating that Lagerstätten preserve unusual faunas and, as expected, fragile taxa make up a greater proportion of richness in Lagerstätten than the remainder of the fossil record. Vastly different sampling probabilities through taxa, locations and time require serious consideration when quantitatively analysing richness.

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