Collectively, studies of the structure of Neogene diversity change in tropical American mollusks have lacked 1) species-level analyses within well-established clades; 2) consideration of abundance and sample size on diversity estimates and comparisons; and 3) geographic comparisons within temporal intervals. This study takes all three factors into consideration and compares Miocene to Recent species richness patterns in tropical American marginellid gastropod species within the clade Prunum Volvarina. Rarefaction analyses of more than 16,000 specimens from more than 500 samples are used to standardize comparisons of species richness through time and space. Species richness in Prunum Volvarina from the Miocene to the Recent of the Tropical Western Atlantic (TWA) is compared along a latitudinal gradient from north to south (Florida, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela). Additionally, temporal patterns of diversity change are compared between the TWA and the Tropical Eastern Pacific (TEP: Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, and Costa Rica).
As is the case with most Neogene lineages, the number of marginellid specimens and samples differ significantly through both time and space. Rarefaction analyses of both specimens and samples indicate that: 1) significant geographic differences in species richness were detected between the Miocene, Pliocene, Pleistocene, and Recent of the TWA; 2) temporal patterns of species richness were similar in the northern and southern TWA; 3) from the Miocene to the Recent, marginellid species richness in the TEP has always been significantly less than TWA diversity; and 4) from the Miocene to the Recent, TWA diversity decreased significantly, whereas TEP diversity was stable and low. Separate rarefaction analyses using the numbers of specimens and samples did not always produce concordant results and indicate that the unit of analysis influences estimates of species richness. Discordant specimen/sample rarefaction results may be a product of sample size. Intrinsic ecological and evolutionary differences do not appear to be primary contributors to differences in marginellid species richness between the TEP and TWA.