Sampling Bias Changes Everything – #365papers – 2018 – 42

Dunne, Close, Button, Brocklehurst, Cashmore, Lloyd, and Butler, 2018, Diversity change during the rise of tetrapods and the impact of the ‘Carboniferous rainforest collapse’: Proceedings of the Royal Society B, v 285, 20172730

What’s it about?

The Carboniferous Period was a time of great forests which aided the diversification of early four-legged land vertebrates (tetrapods). At the end of the Carboniferous, the forested habitat was fragmented during an event called the ‘Carboniferous rainforest collapse’ (CRC). This fragmentation had strong effects on the continued diversification of tetrapods, however interpretations of this diversification may be in error due to sampling bias.

The authors here carefully assess tetrapod diversity, taking into account spatial and temporal biases in the fossil record, showing that there was a reduction of diversity during the CRC, but that diversity and connectedness between forest fragments increased after the CRC.

Why does it matter?

The fossil record is limited, in terms of what can actually be preserved in rock. It is further limited by our ability as scientists to be able to collect every fossil. Thus it is important to account for these biases as well as possible.

Why did I read this?

Don’t know much about the Carboniferous. Don’t know much about the CRC. (That’s me singing.)

It seemed to be a worthwhile paper to read to learn more about the early diversification of tetrapods, as this will be the topic of discussion in a couple of weeks in my class.

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