Recent study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2016.2839. Funding from the National Science Foundation helped support this research, which was featured in an article by the University of Florida. To assess marine community response to environmental and anthropogenic change, we must understand spatial heterogeneity in present-day and preindustrial ecosystems. As previous studies predominantly utilize single higher taxa, here we evaluate the validity of using single taxa, such as mollusks, as surrogates for entire marine invertebrate communities and as paleontological proxies. Results suggests that single groups can serve as reliable community proxies, and that spatial fidelity of death assemblages is high. Therefore, integrated analyses of ecological and paleontological data utilizing surrogate taxa can quantify anthropogenic changes in marine ecosystems and advance our understanding of spatial and temporal aspects of biodiversity.