- The Paleontological Society
Four independent lines of evidence, (1) the quality of specimen preservation, (2) taxonomic collection curves, (3) molecular divergence estimates, and (4) ghost lineage analysis of a genus-level cladogram, point to echinoids having a much poorer fossil record in the Triassic than in the Lower Jurassic. Furthermore, preservational differences between Triassic and Lower Jurassic echinoids have remained a consistent feature over 160 years of discovery. Differences exist in how effectively paleontologists have collected the fauna from available outcrops in the Triassic and Lower Jurassic. Collection curves suggest that rocks have been more efficiently searched for their fossils in Europe than elsewhere in the world, and that Lower Jurassic faunas are better sampled from available outcrop than Triassic faunas. The discovery of Triassic taxa has quickened in pace over the past 4 decades (though largely driven by a single Lagerstätte—the St. Cassian beds) while discoveries of new taxa from the Lower Jurassic have slowed. Molecular analysis of extant families and ghost lineage analysis of Triassic and Lower Jurassic genera both point to poorer sampling of Triassic faunas. This difference in the quality of the fossil record may be partially explained by differences in rock outcrop area, as marine sedimentary rocks are much less common in the Triassic than in the Lower Jurassic. However, improving biomechanical design of the echinoid test over this critical time interval was probably as important, and better explains observed preservational trends. Changes in the quality of the echinoid fossil record were thus driven as much by intrinsic biological factors as by sampling patterns.