Entire Data Set, Stage by Stage

The data set lists basic data derived from The Fossil Record 2 (Benton, 1993), on the diversity, origination, and extinction of all life, continental life, and marine life from the Vendian to the present-day. The data columns are arranged in sequence of the figures in Benton (1995):
  • Stage: name of geological stage
  • Duration: duration, in millions of years, or the stage (data from Harland et al., 1990)
  • Midpoint: midpoint of the stage, in millions of years (data from Harland et al., 1990)
  • Columns 1-6: Number of families (Benton, 1995, Fig. 1A-C)
  • Columns 7-12: log (Diversity) (Benton, 1995, Fig. 2A-C)
  • Columns 13-18: Total origination (Benton, 1995, Fig. 3A-C)
  • Columns 19-24: Total extinction (Benton, 1995, Fig. 4A-C)
  • Columns 25-30: Percent extinction (Benton, 1995, Fig. 5A-C)
  • Columns 31-36: Total extinction rate (Benton, 1995, Fig. 6A-C)
  • Columns 37-42: Per-family extinction rate (Benton, 1995, Fig. 7A-C)

In each block of six columns, there are three pairs, minimum and maximum values respectively, for all organisms, continental organisms, and marine organisms, in that order. As an example:
  • Column 1: Number of families, all organisms, minimum
  • Column 2: Number of families, all organisms, maximum
  • Column 3: Number of families, continental organisms, minimum
  • Column 4: Number of families, continental organisms, maximum
  • Column 5: Number of families, marine organisms, minimum
  • Column 6: Number of families, marine organisms, maximum

The definitions of 'all', 'continental', and 'marine', are given in Benton (1995). The definitions of 'minimum' and 'maximum' need some explanation. These are not simply the absolute minimum or maximum values that could be found for each stage. They are derived from minimum and maximum range bars of individual families. These are indicated in Benton (1993), where information on definite first and last fossils, and possible first and last fossils, is given. Definitions:
  • The minimum range is the minimal stratigraphic range of a family that is based on fossils that are confidently assigned to the family and confidently dated for both first and last records.
  • The maximum range is the greatest possible stratigraphic range of a family, including perhaps dubious first and last specimens.

Phyla Classes Orders Families

These file contains counts of originations, extinctions, taxon richness, and rates, for phyla of organisms, extracted from The Fossil Record 2. The columns of data are as follows:
  1. Name of interval, abbreviated as in FR2, except that the first interval is everything before the Vendian
  2. Age at midpoint of interval
  3. Numbers of originations in interval
  4. Numbers of extinctions in interval
  5. Total number of taxa extant in interval
  6. Originations / total
  7. Extinctions / total
  8. Originations / (total * length of interval)
  9. Extinctions / (total * length of interval)
  10. Originations / (originations + extinctions)
These totals are based on a conservative interpretation of the data. Questioned or uncertain taxa at any mandatory rank are omitted, as are questioned (parts of) ranges. Ranges stated to lower resolution are treated as in your minimum data (I think): they are assumed to begin in the last stage in the stated interval, and end in the first stage in the stated interval; ranges of a single interval longer than a stage are omitted (about 6% of families). Angiosperms are omitted.

We thank Eric Holman (University of California, Los Angeles) for producing this listing.

  • Benton, M. J. (1993) The Fossil Record 2. Chapman & Hall, London, 845 pp. Benton, M. J. (1995) Diversification and extinction in the history of life. Science, 268, 52-58.
  • Harland, W. B., Armstrong, R. L., Cox, A. V., Craig, L. E., Smith, A. G., and Smith, D. G. (1990) A Geologic Time Scale 1989. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 263 pp.