The emergence of Phanerozoic global diversity as a central theme of investigation has resulted from a confluence of factors, including the assembly by several researchers of global taxonomic databases; the advent of computers, which permitted construction and analysis of global Phanerozoic diversity trajectories; and the recognition that Phanerozoic diversity trends are important bellwethers of the evolutionary processes that cause biotic transitions. Despite the enormous progress in the measurement and interpretation of Phanerozoic diversity over the past quarter century, much of which has been reported in Paleobiology, these studies have collectively generated at least as many new questions as they have answered—arguably the mark of an area of inquiry that continues to be vital. In this essay, I discuss several outstanding issues in the investigation of Phanerozoic diversity, ranging from the viability of literature-derived databases for investigating global diversity trends, to the biological significance of the myriad biotic transitions that have taken place throughout the Phanerozoic.
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Vol. 26 • No. sp4