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Punctuated equilibrium in a neontological context
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences.
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences.
2010 (English)In: Theory in biosciences, ISSN 1431-7613, E-ISSN 1611-7530, Vol. 129, no 2-3, 103-111 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The theory of punctuated equilibrium, which proposes that biological species evolve rapidly when they originate rather than gradually over time, has sparked intense debate between palaeontologists and evolutionary biologists about the mode of character evolution and the importance of natural selection. Difficulty in interpreting the fossil record prevented consensus, and it remains disputed as to what extent gradual change in established species is responsible for phenotypic differences between species. Against the historical background of the concept of evolution concentrated in speciation events, we review attempts to investigate tempo and mode of evolution using present-day species since the introduction of the theory of punctuated equilibrium in 1972. We discuss advantages, disadvantages, and prospects of using neontological data, methodological advances, and the findings of some recent studies.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Springer , 2010. Vol. 129, no 2-3, 103-111 p.
Keyword [en]
extinction, macroevolution, microevolution, speciation
National Category
Ecology Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-35396DOI: 10.1007/s12064-010-0087-7ISI: 000283360400004PubMedID: 20514523OAI: diva2:344028
Available from: 2010-08-17 Created: 2010-08-17 Last updated: 2011-11-17Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. The tempo and mode of evolution: a neontological reappraisal
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The tempo and mode of evolution: a neontological reappraisal
2011 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The theory of “punctuated equilibrium” suggests that species evolve rapidly during or immediately upon speciation, “punctuating” long periods of little or no morphological evolution. Here I confirm that body size differences within clades of birds and mammals are best explained using a model of punctuated evolution. This allows me to suggest that rates of speciation and extinction are responsible for why there are more small mammals than large, as large mammals likely speciate and go extinct at a higher rate than small mammals, and hence undergo cladogenetic change more often. Likewise, mammals appear to evolve at a higher rate than birds, because mammals, as a whole, speciate and go extinct at a higher rate than birds. Furthermore I show that mass extinctions and competition, i.e. forms of natural selection, do not seem to explain differences in body size between species on a macroevolutionary scale. Taken together, these findings not only contradict the idea that apparently different rates of evolution are due to differential selection intensities, and emphasize the importance of the speciation process in evolution, but raise the intriguing question as to what limits evolution in established species. Here I suggest that phenotypic traits, dependent on one another for development and/or function may constrain evolution by exerting stabilizing selection from within the organism, as opposed to external environmental selection, which has been the main focus of evolutionary studies thus far.

Abstract [sv]

Teorin om "punkterad jämvikt" säger att arter utvecklas snabbt under och omedelbart efter artbildning, vilket "punkterar" långa perioder med lite eller ingen morfologisk föränding. I den här avhandlingen visar jag att skillnader i kroppsstorlek inom klader (grupp med gemensam förfader) hos fåglar och däggdjur förklaras bäst när man använder en modell med punkterad evolution. Detta gör i sin tur att jag kan föreslå att hastigheten var med artbildning och utdöende sker, förklarar varför det finns fler små däggdjur än stora, eftersom stora däggdjur sannolikt bildar nya arter och dör ut med en högre hastighet än små däggdjur. Likaså förefaller däggdjur i sin helhet att evolvera med en högre hastighet än fåglar, detta eftersom däggdjur bildar nya arter och dör ut med en högre hastighet än fåglar. Dessutom visar jag att massutdöenden och konkurrens (naturlig selektion) inte verkar förklara skillnader mellan arter över makroevolutionära skalor (över geologisk tid). Sammantaget motsäger dessa resultat inte bara idén om att skenbart olika hastighet på evolution främst beror på skillnader i selektionstryck utan understryker också vikten av artbildningsprocessen som en viktig faktor som styr evolutionens hastighet. Dessutom leder dessa resultat till frågan om vad som begränsar evolutionen hos redan etablerade arter. Här föreslår jag att fenotypiska karaktärsdrag som är beroende av varandra för sin funktion och utveckling kan begränsa evolutionen genom att utöva stabiliserande selektion inifrån organismen, i motsats till selektion från den omgivande miljön vilket har varit fokus för de flesta evolutionära studier hittills.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Institutionen för ekologi, miljö och geovetenskap, Umeå Universitet, 2011. 38 p.
birds, extinction, macroevolution, mammals, microevolution, punctuated equilibrium, speciation
National Category
Evolutionary Biology
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-49761 (URN)978-91-7459-306-8 (ISBN)
Public defence
2011-12-09, KBC-huset, KB3A9, Umeå Universitet, Umeå, 10:00 (English)
Available from: 2011-11-18 Created: 2011-11-17 Last updated: 2011-11-17Bibliographically approved

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Monroe, Melanie J.Bokma, Folmer
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