2004 Denver Annual Meeting (November 710, 2004)
Paper No. 84-4
Presentation Time: 8:50 AM-9:10 AM

LARGE DATA BASES IN PALEONTOLOGY

BENTON, Michael J., Earth Sciences, Univ of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1RJ United Kingdom, mike.benton@bris.ac.uk

Large data bases are used by paleontologists to answer questions about the diversification of life, mass extinctions, recoveries from extinction events, radiations, replacements, ecological guilds, paleobiogeography, and the tree of life. Until 1990, much of the work was individual, and each analyst compiled his/ her own databases. Databases were first distributed in printed form, or on computer disks. Since 1990, many paleontological databases, both comprehensive and particular, have been made available through dedicated websites or as web-based material linked to published papers.

Most databases are static, but others are revised periodically, or continuously, some by a single person, others by mutual team effort. Team-built databases have many advantages: (1) bigger and better than anything created by a single person; (2) cost-effective; (3) widely used. There can also be problems: (1) strict design/ editorial control is required or they may be unreliable; (2) they may be so ambitious that they never achieve their objectives. Careful planning of inputs and outputs is essential.

The best-known is the Paleobiology Database at < http://paleodb.org/ >. This is a community effort, launched by John Alroy in 1999, and is an organic project, growing by the addition of fossil lists, collections from all times and all places. Its aim is to allow searching to species level and to fine stratigraphic resolution, and especially to allow a variety of sampling standardization protocols.

Another is The Fossil Record 2, perhaps the last major paleontological database to be published as a book. This database is a comprehensive listing of all families of plants, animals and microbes, with contributions from 100 authors worldwide. Evidence is presented of the first and last fossil within each family, the confidence of assignment, and the broad environment occupied by the family. Attempts were made to standardise the stratigraphic terminology and to encourage authors to use cladistically-determined families where possible. The data were also made available in various formats on the web in 1993, and the website < http://palaeo.gly.bris.ac.uk/frwhole/FR2.html > allows a variety of downloads, searches, and graph-plotting. In the context of CHRONOS, I will present a proposal for further development.

2004 Denver Annual Meeting (November 710, 2004)
General Information for this Meeting
Session No. 84
Geologic Time and CHRONOS: Databases, Tools, Outreach, Education, and the Geoinformatics Revolution I
Colorado Convention Center: Ballroom 4
8:00 AM-12:00 PM, Monday, 8 November 2004

Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 36, No. 5, p. 210

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