The abundance of dolomitic strata in the geological record contrasts with the general rarity of locations where dolomite forms today, a discrepancy that has long posed a problem for their interpretation. Recent culture experiments show that dolomite can precipitate at room temperature, raising the possibility that many ancient dolomites may be of syngenetic origin. We compiled a large geodata set of secular variations in dolomite abundance in the Phanerozoic, coupled with compilations of genus richness of marine benthic invertebrates and sulfur-isotope variations in marine carbonates. These data show that dolomite abundance is negatively correlated to genus diversity, with four dolomite peaks occurring during mass extinctions. Dolomite peaks also correspond to the rapid increase in sulfur-isotope composition (δ34S), an indicator of enhanced sulfate reduction, in anoxic oceans. These results confirm that variations in dolomite abundance during the Phanerozoic were closely linked with changes in marine benthic diversity, with both in turn related to oceanic redox conditions.

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