Accounting for the gaps in ancient food webs

If you want to understand an ecosystem, look at what the species within it eat. In studying food webs—how animals and plants in a community are connected through their dietary preferences—ecologists can piece together how energy flows through an ecosystem and how stable it is to climate change and other disturbances. Studying ancient food webs can help scientists reconstruct communities of species, many long extinct, and even use those insights to figure out how modern-day communities might change in the future. There’s just one problem: only some species left enough of a trace for scientists to find eons later, leaving large gaps in the fossil record—and researchers’ ability to piece together the food webs from the past.

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