The quality of the fossil record: populations, species, and communities

S. M. Kidwell, K. W. Flessa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

144 Scopus citations


Paleontologists have always been concerned about the documentary quality of the fossil record, and this has also become an important issue for biologists, who increasingly look to accumulations of cones, shells, and plant material as possible ways to extend the time-frame of observation on species and community behaviors. Quantitative data on the postmortem behavior of organic remains in modern environments are providing new insights into death and fossil assemblages as sources of biological information. Important findings are discussed. Although a complex array of processes and circumstances influences preservation, death assemblages of resistant skeletal elements are for many major groups good to excellent records of community composition, morphological variation, and environmental and geographic distribution of species, and such assemblages can record temporal dynamics at ecologically and evolutionarily meaningful scales.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)433-464
Number of pages32
JournalAnnual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences
StatePublished - 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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