Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Modern Versus Ancient Extinction pt 2
Ok let's think a little more about Jack's curve.
Remember we're counting fossils here. The number of fossils you have is going to depend on the amount of rock that you have. The younger the rock, the more of it there is. So there is a lot more Tertiary (the "T" on the graph) rock out there than say Cambrian (the "C" with a line through it) so there are more Tertiary fossils than Cambrian fossils. You can compensate for this but it's always going to be very tricky. So that huge run up of in diversity that you see at the end of Jack's curve might not be "real" just because we have so much more rock for those more recent time periods. So the general shape of the curve is a little suspect. With respect to extinction, I'm not saying that extinction events in the paleontoloogical record are simply a result of not having rock for those time periods, but certainly the volume of rock is going to affect how severe we view the extinction as being.
Next time: taphonomy and counting issues