It has recently been argued that barren intervals of marine sedimentary rock are less common in the Cenozoic than in the Paleozoic, and that this arises as a direct consequence of widespread epeiric seas and the prevalence of dysaerobic conditions at such times. We show, using an independent and more direct measure of rock outcrop through time in western Europe, that barren marine sedimentary rocks do become less frequent toward the present, but that this is not linked to any epeiric-seas effect. The proportion of barren to fossiliferous rock outcrop correlates well with the inferred Phanerozoic marine diversity curve (although more so in the Paleozoic than in the post-Paleozoic), and shows no correlation or only a weak negative correlation with area over which the sediments have been deposited. We therefore concluded that the Phanerozoic trend in fossiliferousness most likely records the degree to which space is occupied in the shallow marine realm.
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