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Publication - Dr Daniel Driscoll

    The mosasaur fossil record through the lens of fossil completeness

    Citation

    Driscoll, DA, Dunhill, AM, Stubbs, TL & Benton, MJ, 2019, ‘The mosasaur fossil record through the lens of fossil completeness’. Palaeontology, vol 62., pp. 51-75

    Abstract

    The quality of the fossil record affects our understanding of macroevolutionary patterns. Palaeodiversity is filtered through geological and human processes; efforts to correct for these biases are part of a debate concerning the role of sampling proxies and standardization in biodiversity models. We analyse the fossil record of mosasaurs in terms of fossil completeness as a measure of fossil quality, using three novel, correlating metrics of fossil completeness and 4083 specimens. A new qualitative measure of character completeness (QCM) correlates with the phylogenetic character completeness metric. Mean completeness by species decreases with specimen count; average completeness by substage varies significantly. Mean specimen completeness is higher for species-named fossils than those identified to genus and family. We consider the effect of tooth-only specimens. Importantly, we find that completeness of species does not correlate with completeness of specimens. Completeness varies by palaeogeography: North American specimens show higher completeness than those from Eurasia and Gondwana. These metrics can be used to identify exceptional preservation; specimen completeness varies significantly by both formation and lithology. The Belgian Ciply Formation displays the highest completeness; clay lithologies show higher completeness values. Neither species diversity nor sea level correlates significantly with fossil completeness. A generalized least squares (GLS) analysis using multiple variables agrees with this result, but reveals two variables with significant predictive value for modelling averaged diversity: sea level, and mosasaur and plesiosaur-bearing formations (the latter is redundant with diversity). Mosasaur completeness is not driven by sea level, nor does completeness limit the mosasaur diversity signal.

    Full details in the University publications repository