The diversity of life through time

Simpson, C. & Kiessling, W. 2010. The diversity of life through time. In: Encyclopedia of Life Sciences (ELS). John Wiley & Sons, Ltd: Chichester. pdf

Global diversity is the total number of taxa living in the present day or at any time in the geological past. Recon- structing the trajectory of global diversity by compiling data from the fossil record has been a major research agenda for palaeontologists for decades. The goal is to produce an accurate reconstruction of the pattern of global diversity that will ultimately allow us to under- stand the causes of diversity increases, decreases and transitions in the composition of the biota. The Paleo- biology Database, a new large-scale database based on individual collections of fossil taxa, allows palaeontolo- gists to standardise sampling, thereby controlling for vagaries of the fossil record. Collection-level data also allows researchers to identify any asynchrony of changes in diversity among regions of the globe, with the ultimate goal of identifying the habitats or environments that support biodiversity growth.