At the Geological Society of America's 114th annual meeting in Denver Oct. 27-30, Virginia Tech professor of geological sciences Michael Kowalewski will present findings regarding sturdy and fragile marine fossils.
"Not all fossils are created equal," Kowalewski says. "Some are sturdy. They have thick shells or skeletons. Some are fragile, with thinner shells or skeletons. So we would expect to find more records of organisms with tough skeletons."
But a preliminary study of the Paleobiology Database has revealed that fragile fossils occur as frequently as durable fossils.
"That's good news. It means that this intuitively obvious bias is not as severe as we expected, and the fossil record may be a more reliable source of information than we believed" Kowalewski says. "In this project, we are not trying to reconstruct the evolutionary history of biodiversity or assess the magnitude of mass extinctions, but to evaluate whether the fossil record can indeed provide reliable data for such studies," he emphasizes.
The Paleobiology Database is a collective effort, by nearly 100 faculty members and students from various institutions, to create a central, accessible database. "It is the largest effort within the paleontology community to integrate scientific information accessible in the fossil record," says Kowalewski.
Kowalewski's group is one of several working groups that deal with specific issues. "Our group is evaluating the quality of the fossil record -- how credible, reliable, accurate, precise, and complete is the physical record. How well are fossils preserved? What information has been l
Contact: Michal Kowalewski