Paleontologists increasingly appreciate the importance of studying the ecological context of fossil species and communities. Measuring abundance is a vital component not just for describing this context, but also for evaluating biases related to preservation and sampling and for estimating species richness (Jackson et al. 1999; Jackson and Johnson 2001; Kidwell 2001). Our purpose here is to identify a previously unrecognized problem that could lead to incorrect interpretation of observed patterns of abundance.

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Understanding ancient and living communities and ecosystems requires intimate knowledge of their members. We need to know who the members are, how many...

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