Foundations of Paleoecology Classic Papers with Commentaries
edited by S. Kathleen Lyons, Anna K. Behrensmeyer and Peter J. Wagner
University of Chicago Press, 2019
Cloth: 978-0-226-61817-3 | Paper: 978-0-226-61820-3 | Electronic: 978-0-226-61834-0
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226618340.001.0001


University of Chicago Press (cloth, paper, ebook)
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Approximately 99% of all life that has ever existed is extinct. Fortunately, these long dead species have left traces of their lives and interactions with other species in the rock record that paleoecologists use to understand how species and ecosystems have changed over time. This record of past life allows us to study the dynamic nature of the Earth and gives context to current and future ecological challenges.

This book brings together forty-four classic papers published between 1924 and 1999 that trace the origins and development of paleoecology. The articles cross taxonomic groups, habitat types, geographic areas, and time and have made substantial contributions to our knowledge of the evolution of life. Encompassing the full breadth of paleoecology, the book is divided into six parts: community and ecosystem dynamics, community reconstruction, diversity dynamics, paleoenvironmental reconstruction, species interaction, and taphonomy. Each paper is also introduced by a contemporary expert who gives context and explains its importance to ongoing paleoecological research. A comprehensive introduction to the field, Foundations of Paleoecology will be an essential reference for new students and established paleoecologists alike.


S. Kathleen Lyons is assistant professor in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and codirector of the Evolution of Terrestrial Ecosystems Program. She is coeditor of Animal Body Size: Linking Pattern and Process across Space, Time, and Taxonomic Group, also published by the University of Chicago Press. Anna K. Behrensmeyer is curator of vertebrate paleontology in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s Department of Paleobiology and codirector of the Evolution of Terrestrial Ecosystems Program. She is coauthor of Fossils in the Making: Vertebrate Taphonomy and Paleoecology and Terrestrial Ecosystems through Time: Evolutionary Paleoecology of Terrestrial Plants and Animals, both published by the University of Chicago Press. Peter J. Wagner is associate professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


“The main thesis of this book is that paleoecology is central to the biological and geological sciences because of how it has modernized our understanding of the history of life on Earth and how modern biological systems came to be the way that they are. Broad in scope, including biotas from terrestrial and marine settings with vertebrate, invertebrate, and plant fossils, the compiled papers and their introductory commentaries support this thesis by providing evidence for the fundamental ways paleoecology has impacted these fields. An ambitious compendium of the critical founding scholarly publications of paleoecology.”
— Stephen Q. Dornbos, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee

“A broad overview of classic (and more recent) papers that introduced key concepts to the field, Foundations of Paleoecology is a timely book. It will be useful for upper-level undergraduate or graduate seminars and to anyone new to the field who is hoping to gain a better understanding of the historic perspectives.”
— Brooke E. Crowley, University of Cincinnati

"Students rarely get to explore the early literature on which much of contemporary research has been built, but this volume offers such an opportunity. Each paper is preceded by a short critical commentary by noteworthy invited experts who highlight the historical context and originality of the contribution. Some are more informative than others, but students will find the references accompanying these commentaries a useful guide to contextualizing each topic."
— Choice

"This book is a fascinating insight into the world of paleoecology."
— The Biologist

"[Foundations of Paleoecology will] be great for palaeobiology students to dip into to broaden their insights into the foundations of knowledge that they might otherwise just take for granted."
— Biodiversity and Conservation

"[Foundations of Paleoecology] is both a stimulating read and a welcome book at a time of great change in the field of paleoecology. A product of the synergy of the Smithsonian’s Evolution of Terrestrial Ecosystems Program, this publication presents an overview of evolutionary ecology and of the evolution of paleoecology itself. The volume includes a series of 44 papers accompanied by commentaries from prominent contemporary paleoecologists. . . Together, these works present a thorough review of the many facets of paleoecological studies, including ecosystem and community analyses, biodiversity dynamics, paleoenvironmental reconstructions, species interactions, and taphonomy."
— Jonathan J. Calede, The Quarterly Review of Biology

2020 Outstanding Academic Title, Earth Science
— Chocie



Introduction: Paleoecology as the Quintessence of Earth Studies (Peter J. Wagner, S. Kathleen Lyons, and Anna K. Behrensmeyer)

Part One: Community and Ecosystem Dynamics Edited by S. Kathleen Lyons, Cindy V. Looy, and Surangi Punyasena

1: K. R. Walker and L. F. Laporte (1970) Congruent Fossil Communities from Ordovician and Devonian Carbonates of New York Journal of Paleontology 44:928– 44 Commentary by Mark E. Patzkowsky

2: L. G. Marshall, S. D. Webb, J. J. Sepkoski Jr., and D. M. Raup (1982) Mammalian Evolution and the Great American Interchange Science 215:1351– 57 Commentary by Larisa R. G. DeSantis

3: J. W. Valentine (1971) Resource Supply and Species Diversity Patterns Lethaia 4:51– 61 Commentary by Seth Finnegan

4: J. A. Wolfe and G. R. Upchurch Jr. (1987) Leaf Assemblages across the Cretaceous- Tertiary Boundary in the Raton Basin, New Mexico and Colorado Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 84:5096– 5100 Commentary by Dena M. Smith

5: M. B. Davis (1969) Climatic Changes in Southern Connecticut Recorded by Pollen Deposition at Rogers Lake Ecology 50:409– 22 Commentary by Eric C. Grimm and Shinya Sugita

6: M. A. Buzas and T. G. Gibson (1969) Species Diversity: Benthonic Foraminifera in Western North Atlantic Science 163:72– 75 Commentary by Ellen Thomas

7: B. Van Valkenburgh (1988) Trophic Diversity in Past and Present Guilds of Large Predatory Mammals Paleobiology 14:155– 73 Commentary by Nicholas D. Pyenson

8: A. C. Scott and T. P. Jones (1991) Fossil Charcoal: A Plant- Fossil Record Preserved by Fire Geology Today 7:214– 16 Commentary by Claire M. Belcher

Part Two: Community Reconstruction Edited by Scott L. Wing and Marty Buzas

9: J. L. Cisne and B. D. Rabe (1978) Coenocorrelation: Gradient Analysis of Fossil Communities and Its Applications in Stratigraphy Lethaia 11:341– 64 Commentary by Mark E. Patzkowsky

10: A. M. Ziegler (1965) Silurian Marine Communities and Their Environmental Signifi cance Nature 207:270– 72 Commentary by Thomas D. Olszewski

11: L. J. Hickey and J. A. Doyle (1977) Early Cretaceous Fossil Evidence for Angiosperm Evolution Botanical Review 43:2– 104 Commentary by Scott L. Wing and Nathan Jud

12: R. G. Johnson (1964) The Community Approach to Paleoecology In Approaches to Paleoecology, 107– 34, ed. J. Imbrie and N. D. Newell (New York: Wiley) Commentary by Marty Buzas

13: T. L. Phillips, A. B. Kunz, and D. J. Mickish (1977) Paleobotany of Permineralized Peat (Coal Balls) from the Herrin (No. 6) Coal Member of the Illinois Basin In Interdisciplinary Studies of Peat and Coal Origins, 18– 49, ed. P. H. Given and A. D. Coh

14: N. D. Newell (1957) Paleoecology of Permian Reefs in the Guadalupe Mountains Area Geological Society of America Memoir 67:407– 36 Commentary by Richard K. Bambach

Part Three: Diversity Dynamics Edited by Peter J. Wagner and Gene Hunt

15: D. M. Raup (1972) Taxonomic Diversity during the Phanerozoic Science 177:1065– 71 Commentary by Shanan E. Peters

16: D. Jablonski, J. J. Sepkoski Jr., D. J. Bottjer, and P. M. Sheehan (1983) Onshore- Offshore Patterns in the Evolution of Phanerozoic Shelf Communities Science 222:1123– 25 Commentary by Richard B. Aronson

17: J. W. Valentine (1969) Patterns of Taxonomic and Ecological Structure of the Shelf Benthos during Phanerozoic Time Palaeontology 12:684– 709 Commentary by Michael Foote

18: J. J. Sepkoski Jr. (1978) A Kinetic Model of Phanerozoic Taxonomic Diversity. I. Analysis of Marine Orders Paleobiology 4:223– 51 Commentary by Arnold I. Miller

19: J. W. Valentine and E. M. Moores (1970) Plate- Tectonic Regulation of Faunal Diversity and Sea Level: A Model Nature 228:657– 59 Commentary by Matthew G. Powell

20: R. K. Bambach (1977) Species Richness in Marine Benthic Habitats through the Phanerozoic Paleobiology 3:152– 67 Commentary by Andrew M. Bush

21: B. H. Tiffney (1984) Seed Size, Dispersal Syndromes, and the Rise of the Angiosperms: Evidence and Hypothesis Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 71:551– 76 Commentary by Hallie J. Sims

22: P. Andrews, J. M. Lord, and E. M. Nesbit Evans (1979) Patterns of Ecological Diversity in Fossil and Modern Mammalian Faunas Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 11:177– 205 Commentary by Catherine Badgley

Part Four: Paleoenvironmental Reconstruction Edited by Anna K. Behrensmeyer and Caroline A. E. Strömberg

23: M. L. Natland (1933) The Temperature- and Depth- Distribution of Some Recent and Fossil Foraminifera in the Southern California Region Bulletin of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Technical Series 3:225– 30 Commentary by Marty Buzas

24: J. C. Vogel and N. J. Van der Merwe (1977) Isotopic Evidence for Early Maize Cultivation in New York State American Antiquity 42:238– 42 Commentary by Noreen Tuross

25: M. K. Elias (1937) Depth of Deposition of the Big Blue (Late Paleozoic) Sediments in Kansas Geological Society of America Bulletin 48:403– 32 Commentary by Thomas D. Olszewski

26: J. C. Zachos, M. A. Arthur, and W. E. Dean (1989) Geochemical Evidence for Suppression of Pelagic Marine Productivity at the Cretaceous/Tertiary Boundary Nature 337:61– 64 Commentary by Steven D’Hondt

27: T. E. Cerling, Y. Wang, and J. Quade (1993) Expansion of C4 Ecosystems as an Indicator of Global Ecological Change in the Late Miocene Nature 361:344– 45 Commentary by David L. Fox

28: J. A. Wolfe (1978) A Paleobotanical Interpretation of Tertiary Climates in the Northern Hemisphere American Scientist 66:694– 703 Commentary by Peter Wilf

Part Five: Species Interaction Edited by Conrad C. Labandeira and Hans- Dieter Sues

29: D. H. Janzen and P. S. Martin (1982) Neotropical Anachronisms: The Fruits the Gomphotheres Ate Science 215:19– 27 Commentary by Jessica Theodor

30: C. W. Thayer (1979) Biological Bulldozers and the Evolution of Marine Benthic Communities Science 203:458– 61 Commentary by Mary Droser

31: G. J. Vermeij (1977) The Mesozoic Marine Revolution: Evidence from Snails, Predators, and Grazers Paleobiology 3:245– 58 Commentary by Patricia H. Kelley

32: P. Wilf and C. C. Labandeira (1999) Response of Plant- Insect Associations to Paleocene- Eocene Warming Science 284:2153– 56 Commentary by Ellen D. Currano

33: E. C. Olson (1966) Community Evolution and the Origin of Mammals Ecology 47:291– 302 Commentary by Kenneth D. Angielczyk

34: P. S. Martin (1973) The Discovery of America Science 179:969– 74 Commentary by Anthony D. Barnosky

35: L. Van Valen (1973) A New Evolutionary Law Evolutionary Theory 1:1– 30 Commentary by Andy Purvis

Part Six: Taphonomy Edited by Nicholas D. Pyenson

36: J. A. Shotwell (1955) An Approach to the Paleoecology of Mammals Ecology 36:327– 37 Commentary by Patricia A. Holroyd and Susumu Tomiya

37: J. E. Warme (1969) Live and Dead Molluscs in a Coastal Lagoon Journal of Paleontology 43:141– 50 Commentary by Susan Kidwell

38: I. A. Efremov (1940) Taphonomy: New Branch of Paleontology Pan- American Geologist 74:81– 93 Commentary by Anna K. Behrensmeyer

39: A. K. Behrensmeyer (1978) Taphonomic and Ecological Information from Bone Weathering Paleobiology 4:150– 62 Commentary by Raymond R. Rogers

40: S. M. Kidwell, F. T. Fürsich, and T. Aigner (1986) Conceptual Framework for the Analysis and Classifi cation of Fossil Concentrations Palaios 1:228– 38 Commentary by Adam Tomašových

41: R. W. Chaney (1924) Quantitative Studies of the Bridge Creek Flora American Journal of Science, 5th ser., 8:127– 44 Commentary by Leo J. Hickey

42: D. R. Lawrence (1968) Taphonomy and Information Losses in Fossil Communities Geological Society of America Bulletin 79:1315– 30 Commentary by Carlton E. Brett

43: R. G. Johnson (1960) Models and Methods for Analysis of the Mode of Formation of Fossil Assemblages Geological Society of America Bulletin 71:1075– 86 Commentary by Richard K. Bambach

44: A. Seilacher, W.- E. Reif, and F. Westphal (1985) Sedimentological, Ecological, and Temporal Patterns of Fossil Lagerstätten Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B 311:5– 24 Commentary by Derek E. G. Briggs

List of Contributors

Author Index

Subject Index