On the relationship between Phanerozoic diversity and changes in habitable area

Karl W. Flessa, J. John Sepkoski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Applications of the species-area equation to studies of fluctuations in Phanerozoic diversity have great promise but can involve questionable assumptions. Sepkoskfs (1976) analysis of marine diversity throughout the Phanerozoic record assumes that total rock volume is a sufficient measure of sampling efficiency and that an isomorphous equation is appropriate for all of Phanerozoic time. The area of marine sedimentary rock and the area of continental seas are not independent variables. Residual variation in diversity (that which remains after subtracting the effects of rock volume) might be explained by either the species-area relationship or by another component of sampling efficiency. A species-area equation in which the slope (z) and intercept (k) are assumed constant receives mixed support from arguments based on Recent terrestrial and aquatic organisms. Observed z-values cluster near a value of 0.30 despite a wide taxonomic range, but are generally below those found for the Phanerozoic record. Temporal fluctuations in k values, in response to changes in the area of continental seas, may produce elevated estimates of z.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)359-366
Number of pages8
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1978

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Palaeontology


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