Skip to main content
Dryad logo

Data from: Quantifying the dark data in museum fossil collections as palaeontology undergoes a second digital revolution

Citation

Marshall, Charles R. et al. (2018), Data from: Quantifying the dark data in museum fossil collections as palaeontology undergoes a second digital revolution, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.j0r8127

Abstract

Large-scale analysis of the fossil record requires aggregation of palaeontological data from individual fossil localities. Prior to computers these synoptic datasets were compiled by hand, a laborious undertaking that took years of effort and forced palaeontologists to make difficult choices about what types of data to tabulate. The advent of desktop computers ushered in palaeontology’s first digital revolution – online literature-based databases, such as the Paleobiology Database (PBDB). However, the published literature represents only a small proportion of the palaeontological data housed in museum collections. Although this issue has long been appreciated, the magnitude, and thus potential significance, of these so-called “dark data” has been difficult to determine. Here, in the early phases of a second digital revolution in palaeontology the digitization of museum collections – we provide an estimate of the magnitude of palaeontology’s dark data. Digitization of our nine institutions’ holdings of Cenozoic marine invertebrate collections from California, Oregon, and Washington in the United States reveals that they represent 23 times the number of unique localities than are currently available in the Paleobiology Database. These data, and the vast quantity of similarly untapped dark data in other museum collections, will when digitally mobilized enhance palaeontologists’ ability to make inferences about the patterns and processes of past evolutionary and ecological changes.

Usage Notes

Funding

National Science Foundation, Award: DBI-1503678, DBI-1503628, DBI-1503611, DBI-1503065, DBI-1503613, DBI-1503545, DBI-1502500, DBI-1349430, DBI-1561759, DBI-1203600

Location

Oregon
Pacific
California
Washington