This data base contains results of tests to compare cladograms with stratigraphy. You can read more about the methods and results in the introductory section, and the raw data are listed according to major group of organisms. The data sets have been updated to include the 1000 cladograms and molecular trees assessed for fit to stratigraphy by Benton et al. (2000).


Wills, M. A. 2007. Fossil ghost ranges are most common in some of the oldest and some of the youngest strata. Proceedings of the Royal Society, Series B 274, 2421-2427.

Matt Wills shows, in a new study (Wills 2007) that ghost ranges are not evenly spaced through time, based on our sample of 1000 cladograms. Ghost ranges are indeed relatively common in some of the oldest strata. Surprisingly, however, ghost ranges are also relatively common in some of the youngest, fossil-rich rocks. This pattern results from the interplay between several complex factors and is not a simple function of the completeness of the fossil record. The Early Palaeozoic record is likely to be less organismically and stratigraphically complete, and its fossils - many of which are invertebrates - may be more difficult to analyse cladistically. The Late Cenozoic is subject to the pull of the Recent, but this accounts only partially for the increased gappiness in the younger strata.

Benton, M. J. 2001. Finding the tree of life: matching phylogenetic trees to the fossil record through the 20th century. Proceedings of the Royal Society, Series B 268, 2123-2130.

The 'tree of life' shows how all plants, animals and microbes are related together and how they evolved. Many biologists and palaeobiologists spend their time trying to disentangle the millions of branches of that tree and new methods have speeded up the work in the 1990s. But where is it all heading? A comparison of 1000 evolutionary trees published during the twentieth century shows that knowledge is changing. In comparison with our knowledge of the order of fossils in rocks, the predictions of the order of branching in evolutionary trees have only improved slightly and estimates of the timing of branching has, if anything, become worse.

Download pdf version of this paper.

Benton, M. J., Wills, M. A., and Hitchin, R. 2000. Quality of the fossil record through time. Nature, 403, 534-537.

A paper published in February 2000 shows, we believe, that the fossil record is equally good through time. The Cambrian fossil record is just as good as the Cenozoic. And yet, any Cambrian fossil locality is obviously much worse than any Cenozoic fossil locality. How can one explain this paradox? Read more.

Download pdf version of this paper.

Download 'Ghosts' software free of charge. This program calculates SCI, RCI, and GER, the basic cladograms vs. stratigraphy metrics. Calculations may be done rapidly for individual cladograms or for batch jobs of many alternate trees of the same taxa.

Explore the other services available from the Bristol Palaeontology Home Page.
Let me know if you have any problems in downloading the list. Also, let me know if you use the data, and particularly if you publish anything using the data. Contact mike.benton@bristol.ac.uk.