Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Estimating taxonomic durations and preservation probability

  • Mike Foote (a1)

Paleontological completeness and stratigraphic ranges depend on extinction rate, origination rate, preservation rate, and the length of the interval of time over which observations can be made. I derive expressions for completeness and the distribution of durations and ranges as functions of these parameters, considering both continuous- and discrete-time models.

Previous work has shown that, if stratigraphic ranges can be followed indefinitely forward, and if extinction and preservation occur at stochastically constant rates, then extinction rate and preservability can be estimated from (1) discrete (binned) stratigraphic ranges even if data on occurrences within ranges are unknown, and (2) continuous ranges if the number of occurrences within each range is known. I show that, regardless of whether the window of observation is finite or infinite, extinction and preservation rates can also be estimated from (3) continuous ranges when the number of occurrences is not known, and (4) discrete ranges when the number of occurrences is not known. One previous estimation method for binned data involves a sample-size bias. This is circumvented by using maximum likelihood parameter estimation. It is worth exploiting data on occurrences within ranges when these are available, since they allow preservation rate to be estimated with less variance. The various methods yield comparable parameter estimates when applied to Cambro-Ordovician trilobite species and Cenozoic mammal species.

Stratigraphic gaps and variable preservation affect stratigraphic ranges predictably. In many cases, accurate parameter estimation is possible even in the face of these complications. The distribution of stratigraphic ranges can be used to estimate the sizes of gaps if their existence is known.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

D. G. Kendall 1948. On the generalized “birth-and-death” process. Annals of Mathematical Statistics 19:115.

C. R. Marshall , and P. D. Ward 1996. Sudden and gradual molluscan extinctions in the latest Cretaceous of Western European Tethys. Science 274:13601363.

D. Strauss , and P. M. Sadler 1989. Classical confidence intervals and Bayesian probability estimates for ends of local taxon ranges. Mathematical Geology 21:411427.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0094-8373
  • EISSN: 1938-5331
  • URL: /core/journals/paleobiology
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 4 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 64 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 22nd September 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.