The Adequacy of the Fossil Record

The Adequacy of the Fossil Recordicon
Edited by Stephen K. Donovan & Christopher R. C. Paul

The Adequacy of the Fossil Record is not what I was expecting. The underlying theme deals with the "interplay between the use of quantitative methods, and geological and paleontological intuition". I was thinking that it would be aimed at a general audience. The intended audience, however, is the professional.

The essays deal with a variety of issues; most are very technical. Several involve the statistical means used to estimate things like the completeness of the overall fossil record (or a specific fossil record) and the accuracy of dating species formation and extinction. The underlying statistical methodologies are examined for usefulness and correctness.

Taphonomy is the main subject of a few essays and an interwoven thread throughout most of book. Phosphatization (the second best method of fossilization to amber preservation), for example, is the focus of one essay.

The Adequacy of the Fossil Record will be of much use to professionals and researchers in the field of paleontology. The quantitative methods exemplified and discussed are essential to thorough analysis in this area that is too frequently considered a 'soft science' or a field where personal opinions get in the way of the actual statistical evidence.

from the publisher:
This book assesses the strengths and weaknesses of fossil evidence and offers a critical look at the research methodologies of paleontologists and their scientific results. It is an up-to-date review of the adequacy of the fossil record and its utility and examines the rate and use of evidence in paleontology.

The 'incompleteness of the fossil record' is an excuse used by some scientists to reject any fossil evidence that runs counter to current preconceptions. Adequacy and completeness are difficult concepts that should not be confused. The fossil record may be incomplete, but it is entirely adequate for many and most requirements of paleontology, as well as answering wider questions in geology and biology. The Adequacy of the Fossil Record is intended to debunk these and other objections.

Table of Contents
"Adequacy, Completeness and the Fossil Record" by Christopher R.C. Paul
"Determining Stratigraphic Ranges" by Charles Marshall
"Resolution of the Fossil Record: The Fidelity of Preservation" by David M. Martill
"The Completeness of the Pleistocene Fossil Record" by Benjamin Greenstein, John Pandolfi and Allen Curran
"An Overview of the Adequacy and Completeness of the Phanerozoic Fossil Record" by Paul and Donovan
"Fossil Soils and the Estimation of Stratigraphic Completeness" by Gregory Retallack
"Phylogenetic Analyses and the Quality of the Fossil Record" by Peter Wagner
"Taxanomic Barriers and Other Distortions within the Fossil Record" by Carl Koch
"Patterns of Occurrence of Formaminiferans in Time and Space" by Stephen Culver and Martin Buzas
"Bryozoan Phylogeny and the Fossil Record" by Alan Cheetham and Jeremy Jackson
"The Fossil Record of Bivalve Molluscs" by Elizabeth Harper
"Fossil Record of Vertebrates" by Michael Benton