The spatial structure of Phanerozoic marine animal diversity

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Colleges, School and Institutes


The global fossil record of marine animals has fueled long-standing debates about diversity
change through time and the drivers of this change. However, the fossil record is not truly
global. It varies considerably in geographic scope and in the sampling of environments
among intervals of geological time. We account for this variability using a spatially explicit
approach to quantify regional-scale diversity through the Phanerozoic. Among-region
variation in diversity is comparable to variation through time, and much of this is explained by
environmental factors, particularly the extent of reefs. By contrast, influential hypotheses of
diversity change through time, including sustained long-term increases, have little explanatory
power. Modeling the spatial structure of the fossil record transforms interpretations of
Phanerozoic diversity patterns and their macroevolutionary explanations. This necessitates a
refocus of deep-time diversification studies


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to) 420–424
Number of pages4
Issue number6489
Publication statusPublished - 24 Apr 2020