1. What is the compendium and what is it based on? Who was Sepkoski and how did he generate the underlying database?
The Sepkoski Compendium of animal genera was the first published database of the stratigraphic ranges of marine animals, and it is based primarily on the Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology (Moore) with updates and additions. Analysis of this database resulted in the concept of evolutionary faunas, and many other macroevolutionary concepts and observations.
2. Why are land animals like dinosaurs not included in the compendium?
A conscious decision was made in the making of the Sepkoski Compendium to not include land animals in the database. As a research-driven project, the Compendium was developed to recognize patterns and test hypotheses on marine animal evolution because the fossil data was regarded to be most abundant and comparable. Inclusion of non-marine organisms would have been too large an undertaking at the time, but is now covered in the more ambitious Paleobiology Database project (http://paleodb.org/cgi-bin/bridge.pl)
What's the difference in functionality and data content between the Excel version and the web version?
FossilPlot 2 (the online version) is designed to replicate all the functionality provided by FossilPlot 1 (for MS-Excel) and uses exactly the same database. FP2 provides additional graphing options and greater processing capacity than previous versions.
What are the rules, licenses, agreements, contracts, and so forth related to my use of this tool in a classroom setting? Are there any restrictions on the use of the data and/or the site?
FossilPlot is designed for educational settings and is free for that purpose. We invite interaction, comments and suggestions from our users to improve the software and website, and to develop a series of reusable exercises based on FP graphs. Any reference to FossilPlot should acknowledge source (Tapanila at Idaho State University) and Sepkoski 2002.
5. What changes if any have you made to the Sepkoski data as you have implemented this system?
The Sepkoski Compendium fields were simplified for the presentation in FossilPlot. This included removing the reference field and removing the “+” notation for genera. The absolute Geologic Time Scale (2004) was correlated to the stages defined by Sepkoski 2002.
6. What do I do if I find a mistake in the data?
Contact Leif Tapanila (firstname.lastname@example.org)
7. What do I do if I find a bug in the program?
Contact Leif Tapanila (email@example.com)
8. Can I make suggestions on new functions or graphs? How do I do that?
Yes! We value the input of our users and want to hear your suggestions. Contact Leif Tapanila (firstname.lastname@example.org)
9. Is there a community of users/educators where we can discuss this awesome tool?
Yes, there is a group page on Facebook where you can chat and ask questions.
10. What is FossilPLot 1.0?
FossilPlot versions 1.0 and 1.1 were developed in Microsoft Excel 2003 and provided stratigraphic graphing functions of the Sepkoski Compendium. The XLS file and accompanying documentation remain available for free use at http://geology.isu.edu/FossilPlot/.
11. Can I delete a genus or genera from my graph once it's created?
Yes, but it requires that you return to the Graph Options screen. In the Selected Listings, highlight genera to be removed and click the Delete Selection button. Then hit the Graph button for the graph type you wish to make.
12. I selected a Diversity graph on the graph options page, and then hit the Graph button at the bottom of the page, but I got an error message about the Sepkoski Curve graph. What happened?
It’s very important that you click the Graph button that is next to the graph type you want. Clicking on the bottom-most Graph button on the page will always make a Sepkoski graph; similarly the top-most Graph button will always make some type of “DOX” graph.
How do I enter absolute time integers correctly?
Absolute time is entered as an interval, from time 1 to time 2, sampled every X million years. A typical range to use that will capture the full Cambrian to Modern range would be: from 542 to 0 every 2 M.Y.
As it turns out, you can enter non-integers… try it!
14. Can I create a Stratigraphic Range graph using periods instead of absolute time intervals?
Not yet, this limitation will likely change in the next version. In the meantime, use the Glossary/Time Chart to learn the time ranges.
15. How do I turn the radio buttons off in the Graph Options once they've been turned on?
You can’t without exiting the Graph Options and returning. An unselected radio button either will prevent a graph from being made (e.g., rate or count); or has a default setting (“Sort by” has default of FAD; “Labels” has default of On).
16. Can I create a Period Graph for the genera I've selected?
No. This graph looks at genera that were present during a specific time Period.
17. What does CM, PZ, and MD mean on the Sepkoski Curve Graph?
The three evolutionary fauna originally described by Sepkoski are the Cambrian (Cm) Paleozoic (Pz) and Modern (Md).
18. I selected my Phylum and I can see the Class. How do I get the Order(s)?
Select (click on) a Class to see the Orders that are contained within it.
19. I have populated the Genus bin but when I click on "Add Genera" no genera are placed in the Genus Listings bin. How do I accomplish this?
You need to Select the genera you wish to Add to the Genus Listings bin. You can select these one at a time by clicking on the genus and clicking the Add Genera button; or you can click the Select All Genera button to highlight all genera in the Genus list, then click the Add Genera button.
20. I have populated my Genus bin but I want to delete everything and start over. How do I do that?
Go back to the top, and click on Phylum. You will see that genera listed in the Genus bin will have disappeared.
21. I entered my phylum name in the free form search box but nothing happened when I clicked on the search button. What do I need to do?
Only genera are searchable using the Free Form Search. Search for other taxonomic levels (Phylum, Order, Class) using the drop-down menus.