Are the most durable shelly taxa also the most common in the marine fossil record?

Anna K. Behrensmeyer*, Franz T. Fürsich, Robert A. Gastaldo, Susan M. Kidwell, Matthew A. Kosnik, Michal Kowalewski, Roy E. Plotnick, Raymond R. Rogers, John Alroy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Citations (Scopus)


This paper tests whether the most common fossil brachiopod, gastropod, and bivalve genera also have intrinsically more durable shells. Commonness was quantified using occurrence frequency of the 450 most frequently occurring genera of these groups in the Paleobiology Database (PBDB). Durability was scored for each taxon on the basis of shell size, thickness, reinforcement (ribs, folds, spines), mineralogy, and microstructural organic content. Contrary to taphonomic expectation, common genera in the PBDB are as likely to be small, thin-shelled, and unreinforced as large, thick-shelled, ribbed, folded, or spiny. In fact, only six of the 30 tests we performed showed a statistically significant relationship between durability and occurrence frequency, and these six tests were equally divided in supporting or contradicting the taphonomic expectation. Thus, for the most commonly occurring genera in these three important groups, taphonomic effects are either neutral with respect to durability or compensated for by other factors (e.g., less durable taxa were more common in the original communities). These results suggest that biological information is retained in the occurrence frequency patterns of our target groups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)607-623
Number of pages17
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2005
Externally publishedYes


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