Museums, paleontology, and a biodiversity science-based approach
Museums, paleontology, and a biodiversity science-based approach (in Museums at the forefront of the history and philosophy of geology; history made, history in the making, Gary D. Rosenberg (editor) and Renee M. Clary (editor))
Special Paper - Geological Society of America (November 2018) 535: 335-348
Museum collections provide a tremendous wealth of data bearing on biogeography, the field that focuses on the study of the distribution of organisms in space and time. Biogeography is a discipline that played a fundamental role in the development of ideas on evolution in the nineteenth century, and it still is a vibrant research area today. One way that biogeography has remained vibrant is through the burgeoning area of biodiversity science. There are many aspects of biodiversity science relevant to paleontology, running the gamut from conservation paleobiology to ecosystem observations, etc. Our especial focus here is on biodiversity science approaches involving the analysis of museum specimen records using mapping and analytical approaches, such as the geographic information system (GIS) and ecological niche modeling (ENM), to quantify how climate change has caused (and will continue to cause) species to move across the face of the globe through time. Initial efforts considered extant taxa, but now analyses of extinct taxa are becoming more commonplace. These analyses of fossil taxa offer extensive opportunities to gain increased insight into biogeography and also macroevolution. This contribution focuses specifically on approaches using fossil taxa and their associated museum specimen data. Such approaches have shown how invasive species have contributed to ancient biodiversity crises, how species niches largely remain stable over geological time scales, how it is predominately abiotic factors, as opposed to competition, that influence species distributions and determine species survival in the long term, and finally how extant species that have been present in marine ecosystems for millions of years are now in grave peril due to impending climate changes projected to occur in the near term. Each of these discoveries will be highlighted in order to help show the value that museum collections of fossils continue to have in the twenty-first century.