The greatest hits of all time: the histories of dominant genera in the fossil record

  • Roy E. Plotnick, Peter Wagner
  • Paleobiology, July 2018, Cambridge University Press
  • DOI: 10.1017/pab.2018.15

A small fraction of all genera dominate the fossil record.

What is it about?

There are fossil organisms that are familiar to any student who has taken a class in paleontology and that are frequently encountered during even a casual collecting trip to a unit of the right age. In this paper, we have quantified the histories of these dominant genera and compare them to the remaining far more diverse but less common genera.

Why is it important?

Even though dominant genera made up only a small fraction of all genera, the turnover patterns “at the top” closely resembled from the much large datasets that include all genera.


Professor Roy E. Plotnick
University of Illinois System

Paleontological studies on diversity over time have tended to focus on counting the total number of species, genera, or other groups over time. We have shown that histories of the small number dominant genera, which should be the ecologically most important, show the same basic patterns.

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The following have contributed to this page: Professor Roy E. Plotnick and Peter Wagner