Colonial history and global economics distort our understanding of deep-time biodiversity

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Authors

Nussaïbah B. Raja , Emma M. Dunne , Aviwe Matiwane , Tasnuva Ming Khan , Paulina S Nätscher , Aline M Ghilardi , Devapriya Chattopadhyay 

Abstract

Sampling variations in the fossil record distort estimates of past biodiversity. However, compilations of global fossil occurrences used in these analyses not only reflect the geological and spatial aspects of the fossil record, but also the historical collation of these data. Here, we demonstrate how the legacy of colonialism as well as socio-economic factors such as wealth, education and political stability impact research output in paleontology. Re- searchers in high or upper middle income countries contribute to 97% of fossil occurrence data, not only leading to spatial sampling biases but also generating a global power imbalance within the discipline. This work illustrates that our efforts to mitigate the effects of sampling biases to obtain a truly representative view of past biodiversity are not disconnected from the aim of diversifying our field.

DOI

https://doi.org/10.31223/X5802N

Subjects

Earth Sciences, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Life Sciences, Paleobiology, Paleontology, Physical Sciences and Mathematics

Keywords

biodiversity, research ethics, sampling biases, scientific colonialism

Dates

Published: 2021-06-24 09:06

Last Updated: 2021-06-24 16:06

License

CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

Additional Metadata

Conflict of interest statement:
None

Data Availability (Reason not available):
The full dataset will be made available upon full publication. At the moment, a version of the data is available to explore via the Paleobiology Database webpage, as described in the methods section.

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