Marine mammals through time: When less is more in studying palaeodiversity

Felix G. Marx

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35 Citations (Scopus)


The validity of biological explanations of patterns of palaeodiversity has been called into question owing to an apparent correlation of diversity with the amount of sedimentary rock preserved. However, this claim has largely been based on comprehensive estimates of global marine Phanerozoic diversity, thus raising the question of whether a similar bias applies to the records of smaller, well-defined taxonomic groups. Here, new data on European Caenozoic marine sedimentary rock outcrop area are presented and compared with European occurrences of three groups of marine mammals (cetaceans, pinnipedimorphs and sirenians). Limited evidence was found for a correlation of outcrop area with marine mammal palaeodiversity. In addition, similar patterns were identified in the cetacean and pinnipedimorph diversity data. This may point to the preservation of a genuine biological signal not overwhelmed by geological biases in the marine mammal diversity data, and opens the door to further analyses of both marine mammal evolution and geological bias in other small and well-defined groups of taxa.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)887-892
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1658
Publication statusPublished - 7 Mar 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Cetacea
  • Marine mammal
  • Palaeodiversity
  • Pinnipedimorpha
  • Rock bias
  • Sirenia

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