The Fossil Calibration Database: A new resource for divergence dating

Daniel T. Ksepka*, James F. Parham, James F. Allman, Michael J. Benton, Matthew T. Carrano, Karen A. Cranston, Philip C. J. Donoghue, Jason J. Head, Elizabeth J. Hermsen, Randall B. Irmis, Walter G. Joyce, Manpreet Kohli, Kristin D. Lamm, Dan Leehr, Joses L. Patane, P. David Polly, Matthew J. Phillips, N. Adam Smith, Nathan D. Smith, Marcel van TuinenJessica L. Ware, Rachel C. M. Warnock

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Fossils provide the principal basis for temporal calibrations, which are critical to the accuracy of divergence dating analyses. Translating fossil data into minimum and maximum bounds for calibrations is the most important-often least appreciated-step of divergence dating. Properly justified calibrations require the synthesis of phylogenetic, paleontological, and geological evidence and can be difficult for nonspecialists to formulate. The dynamic nature of the fossil record (e.g., new discoveries, taxonomic revisions, updates of global or local stratigraphy) requires that calibration data be updated continually lest they become obsolete. Here, we announce the Fossil Calibration Database (, a new open-access resource providing vetted fossil calibrations to the scientific community. Calibrations accessioned into this database are based on individual fossil specimens and follow best practices for phylogenetic justification and geochronological constraint. The associated Fossil Calibration Series, a calibration-themed publication series at Palaeontologia Electronica, will serve as a key pipeline for peer-reviewed calibrations to enter the database.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)853-859
Number of pages7
JournalSystematic biology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept-2015


  • Calibration
  • divergence dating
  • fossil
  • AGE
  • LIFE
  • TREE

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