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Re: The (long) future of paleontology



> Date: Thu, 12 Jan 2006 14:13:16 -0500
> From: "W. F. Zimmerman, wfzimmerman.com" <wfz@wfzimmerman.com>
> 
> How much of the ultimate "catch" of fossils have we already found?
> 1%? 5%?  50?  What will (terran) paleontologists be finding 50 years
> from now?  100?  1000?  What new (earth-penetrating?) techniques
> will transform the field?

Dodson (1990) looked into this for dinosaurs:

        Dodson, P.  1990.  Counting dinosaurs: how many kinds
        were there?  Proceedings of the National Academy of
        Science 87: 7608-7612.

The paper is a bit old now but the techniques are interesting.  He
surveyed the non-avian dinosaur genera that had been described at that
time and concluded that only slightly more than half were valid (285
of 540).  (We now have about twice as many valid genera.)  Based on
the record then available, Dodson estimated the total number of
dinosaurian genera at 900-1200, based on estimated genus longevity of
7.7 million years, concluding that the record was at that time about
25% complete.

You can download the paper from
        http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/87/19/7608

 _/|_    ___________________________________________________________________
/o ) \/  Mike Taylor  <mike@miketaylor.org.uk>  http://www.miketaylor.org.uk
)_v__/\  "I did it preserve the Union and promote sales of my book" --
         Charles J. Guiteau.