Just out @ Palaeontologia Electronica
Biases in the study of relationships between biodiversity dynamics and fluctuation of environmental conditions
Stéphane Jouve, Bastien Mennecart, Julien Douteau, and Nour-Eddine Jalil
During the last decades, studies testing the correlations between the dynamics of diversity with various environmental variables strongly increased, but numerous biases affecting these analyses have been recognised. Recent studies considering the evolution of marine crocodylomorphs in comparison with the fluctuations of sea surface temperature and sea level found contradictory results. However, we considered a diversity analysis published two years before our work, and noticed several taxonomical issues (new material and species described since the publication of this paper, unidentified thalattosuchians in time bins where previous analyses considered the absence of any marine crocodylomorphs, and some taxonomical corrections). Here we test the impact of updating the dataset on these results. We also tested the consequences of the time range considered and various methods in reconstructing the sea surface temperature curve.
Each of these corrections and modifications impacts strongly the results, and most of them drive to a different conclusion from the original work. These results point out the crucial importance of taxonomical work in diversity studies to provide reliable results, such as the method used to construct the proxies.
The contradictory results obtained here question the reliability of the correlations proposed until now between crocodylomorph evolution and environmental proxies. Deep taxonomic and phylogenetic review should be conducted prior to studying the diversity evolution of a group. This also strongly questions the use of the Paleobiology Database in diversity analyses when the studied group has not yet been reviewed and that numerous, doubtful, nineteenth century species are considered in this dataset.
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