In 1981, a short paper was published in Nature Magazine that was among the most influential paleontological publications of the past quarter century. Officially titled “Phanerozoic Marine Diversity and the Fossil Record,” the Consensus Paper, as it has come to be known, juxtaposed several depictions of the history of Phanerozoic marine taxonomic diversity, each developed with a different protocol for data collection. Despite these differences, a robust signal emerged at three different taxonomic levels, which the authors attributed to an unmistakable—and biologically meaningful—Phanerozoic trajectory. Of course, as many of us know, this paper played—and continues to play—a remarkable role in...

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