Department of Earth Science

New paper

New paper in Nature Communications

In a new Nature Communications paper Bjarte Hannisdal and co-authors question the way we think about the fossil record.

Researcher Bjarte Hannisdal at GEO and the Centre for Geobiology is a co-author on a new paper in Nature Communications that questions the way we think about the fossil record.The fossil record is our most important source of knowledge about the history of life on Earth. But does this incomplete record give an accurate picture of the evolution of life? Charles Darwin himself devoted an entire chapter of his book On the Origin of Species to emphasise the incompleteness of the geological record, which has worried scientists ever since. Palaeontologists have therefore come up with methods for trying to correct for the biases in the fossil record.The new study suggests, however, that some of these methods may be misleading, and might give a false picture of the history of life. Scientists at the universities of Leeds, Bristol, and Bergen have analysed the rock and fossil records of Great Britain, which has been meticulously studied by geologists for more than 200 years.

Their results suggest that some geological factors, such as the number of formations, cannot be considered independent measures of bias, and should not be used to “correct”
the fossil record.These findings have implications for our understanding of the fossil record. Although fossils clearly capture a biological signal that helps us understand the history of life on Earth, this history is closely intertwined with geological changes. Instead of trying to “filter out” the geological factors, biology and geology should be viewed as coupled components of an evolving system.

Link to article in UiB News.

Link to paper in Nature Communications.