Department of Geology

Quantitative Paleoecology

Dr. J Bret

This figure is taken from a paper in Palaios, which demonstrates the utility of replicate sampling for placing confidence bounds around estimates of species abundance.
Fossil assemblages preserve a record of the community of organisms that lived in a particular environment at a particular time in the past. To be able to study community change through time we need to be able to make quantitatively rigorous comparisons between paleocommunities sampled in different places and from different times. Part of my research focuses on developing new sampling protocols and numerical methods to lend statistical rigor to comparative community paleoecology.

I have also developed two related computer applications which can be downloaded:

Rarefact 1.0 - a program to compute rarefaction curves to estimate species diversity at smaller sample sizes.

SpeciesCI 3.0 - a program to compute confidence intervals around estimates of species abundance.

Both programs are freeware applications for the Macintosh operating system. If somebody would like to compile these as Windows or Unix applications, please contact me - I will gladly post additional versions. The fortran source code is included in the download.

Publications related to quantitative paleoecology include:


Bennington, J Bret, 2003. Transcending patchiness in the comparative analysis of paleocommunities: A test case from the Upper Cretaceous of New Jersey. Palaios 18: 22-33. (Full-text PDF 720 K)

Bennington, J Bret and Rutherford, S. D., 1999. Precision and reliability in paleocommunity comparisons based on cluster-confidence intervals: How to get more statistical bang for your sampling buck. Palaios 14: 506-515 (Full-text PDF 844 K).

Bennington, J Bret and Bambach, R. K., 1996. Statistical testing for paleocommunity recurrence: are similar fossil assemblages ever the same? Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology and Palaeoecology 127: 107-134. (Full-text PDF 4mb)

Bambach, R. K., and Bennington, J Bret, 1996. Do communities evolve? A major question in evolutionary paleoecology. In Evolutionary Paleobiology: Essays in Honor of James Valentine. D. Jablonski, D. H. Erwin, and J. H. Lipps, eds., University of Chicago Press., pp. 123-160.

Gilinsky, N.L. and Bennington, J Bret, 1994. Estimating the number of unique individuals from preserved body parts. Paleobiology 20: 245-258.


Bennington, J Bret, 2003. Field methods for quantitative sampling in paleoecology: Strategies for the collection and analysis of fossil assemblage data. Geological Society of America, Abstracts with Programs, 35 (6): 590.

Last modified 6-18-04 by Bret Bennington. All rights reserved by the author. This document may not be distributed or posted in any format or reposted on any other server without permission.
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