Very different questions are involved when we attempt to assess modern versus ancient global biodiversity. Because of the megabiases of taphonomy, eustasy, and tectonics, our estimates of paleobiodiversity can never be absolute; whether or not we can accurately estimate total diversity in the modern world is an open question, but we certainly cannot in the fossil record. The issues are whether we have any way of studying relative change in biodiversity through time, and how best this might be accomplished. That is, can we meaningfully estimate the shape of a global temporal diversity curve?

Diversity can be studied at different...

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