Womack et al. 2020. The Pull of the Recent revisited. Paleobiology.pdf (435.68 kB)

The Pull of the Recent revisited: negligible species-level effect in a regional marine fossil record

Download (435.68 kB)
journal contribution
posted on 02.09.2020 by Thomas Womack, James Crampton, Michael Hannah
Abstract Quantifying true patterns of biodiversity change over the Cenozoic has major implications for all of biology and paleontology but is still a source of significant debate. The problem centers on the magnitude and nature of several well-known sampling effects and analytical biases in the fossil record, including the Pull of the Recent. We test the effect of the Pull of the Recent at both generic and species levels on the exemplary New Zealand Cenozoic marine mollusk fossil record. We examine several biological traits of species to determine whether particular attributes of taxa control their likely presence or absence in the youngest fossil record (<2.4 Ma). We demonstrate that, for a tectonically active region, the Pull of the Recent does not exert a strong effect on apparent diversity patterns of genera and species over the Cenozoic at temporal scales typically used in global and regional biodiversity analyses. This result agrees with previous studies quantifying the effect of the Pull of the Recent in the marine and terrestrial realms at the genus level. The effect of the Pull of the Recent, although small, is greatest for the youngest fossil record (<2.4 Ma), particularly for species. This increase cannot easily be explained by effects related to shell mineralogical composition, size, habitat, taxonomic class, or lithification. The small effect that the Pull of the Recent exerts on the New Zealand molluscan fossil record implies that the apparent rise in regional marine diversity during the Cenozoic represents a true biological signal and/or reflects other confounding effects not considered here.


Preferred citation

Womack, T. M., Crampton, J. S. & Hannah, M. J. (2020). The Pull of the Recent revisited: negligible species-level effect in a regional marine fossil record. Paleobiology, 1-8. https://doi.org/10.1017/pab.2020.32

Journal title


Publication date





Cambridge University Press (CUP)

Publication status

Published online

Online publication date









Logo branding