Similar paleogeographic and paleotectonic settings characterize most self-sourced shale hydrocarbon plays. Their deposition occurred within similar orders of magnitude of eustatic events and during geologic periods characterized by “warm” (or transitional) climates and calcitic seas. In addition, the stratigraphic occurrence of shale plays parallels certain historical patterns of marine metazoan biodiversity. Such strong agreement among several correlation tools elucidates why these resources may be limited to discrete intervals of geological time. Correlation of self-sourced shale with biodiversity trends indicates that the factors controlling the deposition of marine organic matter may not be independent of those that induced taxonomic turnover. Paleoecological changes promoted accumulation and preservation of Type II kerogen. Deposition of self-sourced shale appears to correspond to reductions in absolute biodiversity and declining percentages of bioturbating taxa, with concomitant increases in proportions of pelagic taxa relative to infaunal and epifaunal organisms. Whereas upwelling and anoxia may have contributed to the deposition of kerogen in source rocks throughout much of the sedimentary record, diminished consumption of biomass by benthic metazoans likely augmented the preservation of organic carbon during deposition of this shale type. Rapid tectonic-plate reconfiguration induced coeval events, creating basins with sufficiently high rates of accommodation creation necessary to preserve additional organic material accumulating as the heterotrophic benthos suffered in response to rapidly changing environments. Combining sea-level curves, paleogeography, climate, and seawater chemistry provides a first-order approximation of the distribution of potential self-sourced shale in the geologic record. A model that predicts the stratigraphic distribution of self-sourced-shale deposition can aid in exploration of continuous hydrocarbon accumulations in self-sourced reservoirs globally.