Miller, Arnold I. Department of Geology, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio.
Last reviewed:January 2020
- Building a global paleobiodiversity curve
- Major features of Phanerozoic paleobiodiversity
- Causes of diversification, extinction, and taxonomic transitions
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
The study of biodiversity throughout geologic time, based on analysis of the fossil record of life preserved on Earth. Assessments of present-day biodiversity are conducted in areas as limited as a tree trunk in a tropical rainforest and as expansive as the entire Earth. In recent years, evaluations of the total number of different kinds of organisms on Earth (global biodiversity) have gained particular notoriety because of concerns that the Earth is currently experiencing a human-induced biodiversity crisis (mass extinction). In parallel with studies of present-day biodiversity, paleontologists have catalogued the fossil occurrences of the past 540 million years of geologic time (the Phanerozoic Eon), the interval of Earth history characterized by diverse and abundant life in the oceans and on land. Armed with these data, graphs have been constructed that illustrate the history of global biodiversity, and the many increases and decreases depicted on these curves have fueled a rich new generation of investigations into their causes. See also: Biodiversity; Fossil; Paleontology
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