Biodiversity tracks temperature over time

Peter J. Mayhew, Mark A. Bell, Timothy G. Benton, Alistair J. McGowan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The geographic distribution of life on Earth supports a general pattern of increase in biodiversity with increasing temperature. However, some previous analyses of the 540-million-year Phanerozoic fossil record found a contrary relationship, with paleodiversity declining when the planet warms. These contradictory findings are hard to reconcile theoretically. We analyze marine invertebrate biodiversity patterns for the Phanerozoic Eon while controlling for sampling effort. This control appears to reverse the temporal association between temperature and biodiversity, such that taxonomic richness increases, not decreases, with temperature. Increasing temperatures also predict extinction and origination rates, alongside other abiotic and biotic predictor variables. These results undermine previous reports of a negative biodiversity-temperature relationship through time, which we attribute to paleontological sampling biases. Our findings suggest a convergence of global scale macroevolutionary and macroecological patterns for the biodiversity-temperature relationship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15141-15145
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number38
Publication statusPublished - 18 Sep 2012

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