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Foundations of Paleoecology

Classic Papers with Commentaries

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.

800 pages | 100 halftones, 125 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2019

Earth Sciences: Environment, Geology, Paleontology


"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."


"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

“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

Table of Contents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Scott L. Wing and Marty Buzas

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

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

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

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

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. Cohen. Geological Society of America Microform Publications, vol. 7 (Boulder, CO: Geological Society of America)
Commentary by Ian Glasspool

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part Six
Edited by Nicholas D. Pyenson

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

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

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

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

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

R. W. Chaney (1924)
Quantitative Studies of the Bridge Creek Flora
American Journal of Science, 5th ser., 8:124–44
Commentary by Leo J. Hickey

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

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

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

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