The completeness of the fossil record

  title={The completeness of the fossil record},
  author={Michael J. Benton},
  • M. Benton
  • Published 1 September 2009
  • Geography, Environmental Science
  • Significance
Fossils are the data for evolution. The fossil record was already well known 150 years ago, when Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species, and it is central to Darwin's theories; yet it is commonly claimed that the fossil record is woefully incomplete. Creationists say that it does not show the missing links that evolution predicts. Michael Benton asks if the gaps are too big to fill in. 

On calibrating the completometer for the mammalian fossil record

It is found that the fossil record of proboscideans and perissodactyls as the authors know it for the Miocene must be close to complete, while they might know less than 15% of the species of artiodactyl or carnivore fossil species and only about 1% of primate species of theMiocene.

A biased fossil record can preserve reliable phylogenetic signal

Abstract. The fossil record is notoriously imperfect and biased in representation, hindering our ability to place fossil specimens into an evolutionary context. For groups with fossil records mostly

Fossil ghost ranges are most common in some of the oldest and some of the youngest strata

  • M. Wills
  • Geology, Geography
    Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
  • 2007
It is demonstrated that ghost ranges are indeed relatively common in some of the oldest strata of the Phanerozoic, and that this pattern results from the interplay between several complex factors and is not a simple function of the completeness of the fossil record.


A comparison of the remains of fossilized and recent organisms can provide important information about ancient environments, as well as various principles in biology, and provides information on how paleo environments are determined and how to utilize these specimens to illustrate various concepts in biology and paleontology.

A phylogeny of Cenozoic macroperforate planktonic foraminifera from fossil data

  • T. AzeT. Ezard P. Pearson
  • Environmental Science, Geography
    Biological reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society
  • 2011
The phylogeny is developed from a large body of palaeontological work that details the evolutionary relationships and stratigraphic (time) distributions of species‐level taxa identified from morphology (‘morphospecies’).

Integrating fossil preservation biases in the selection of calibrations for molecular divergence time estimation.

A Bayesian extension to the fossil selection approach developed by Marshall (2008) that takes into account a taphonomic bias in the fossil record and has the advantage of identifying calibrations that may bias age estimates to be too recent while incorporating uncertainty in phylogenetic parameter estimates such as tree topology and branch lengths.

A likelihood method for assessing molecular divergence time estimates and the placement of fossil calibrations.

A method for the objective assessment of the likelihood of inferred divergence times to evaluate the placement of fossil constraints using information from the broader fossil record and the use of "likelihood checkpoints" will allow for the comparison of inferred dates across data sets and across taxonomic groups to place divergence time estimates into a broader evolutionary timescale.

The early diversification of ray-finned fishes (Actinopterygii): hypotheses, challenges and future prospects

Actinopterygii are the most speciose living vertebrate clade, and study of fossil members during their Palaeozoic rise to dominance has a long history of descriptive work. Although research interest


Many recent studies have identified positive correlations between fossil occurrences and the amount of rock preserved per geological time bin. There are two competing explanations for this persistent

Early Tetrapodomorph Biogeography: Controlling for Fossil Record Bias in Macroevolutionary Analyses

This study develops a sampling bias proxy that incorporates geographic information and test it with a case study on early tetrapodomorph biogeography, and finds strong evidence that geographic sampling bias explains supposed radiations in dispersal rate (potential adaptive radiations).