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Evolution as a Largely Autonomous Process
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences.
2015 (English)In: Macroevolution: Explanation, Interpretation and Evidence / [ed] Emanuele Serrelli och Nathalie Gontier, Cham: Springer, 2015, 87-112 p.Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Evolutionary theory has proven generally successful in predicting phenotypic changes over one or a few generations of natural or artificial selection, but fails to predict evolutionary dynamics over longer periods of time, which is a major shortcoming: At longer timescales, existing theory is largely concerned with a posteriori explanations and cannot even predict whether a population or species will adapt to environmental change, or go extinct. Based on a review of key literature from before Darwin to today, I argue that the reason for this shortcoming is that in the Modern Synthesis fitness is regarded as determined exclusively by how well traits are suited to the biotic and abiotic environment. I argue that much can be gained by explicitly considering that fitness has a significant intrinsic component, determined by how well different traits are adapted to each other. Due to adaptation of traits to each other, those traits that are important for the functioning of many other traits can vary only within narrow tolerance limits. Short-term selection experiments and year-to-year fluctuations in natural populations taking place within these tolerance limits give the appearance of rapid evolution. Yet the tolerance limits will prevent changes to accumulate over time, and hence, these traits evolve in a million years no more than they do in a decade. Only traits like coloration that have little influence on other traits can evolve freely, but that will rarely be sufficient to prevent extinction. Significant evolutionary departures require a reshuffling of the interactions between traits and will often coincide with speciation. Emerging from a complex system of interacting traits, the magnitude and direction of these changes will be largely independent of the factors that triggered them, rendering macroevolution a largely autonomous process.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Cham: Springer, 2015. 87-112 p.
, Interdisciplinary Evolution Research, ISSN 2199-3068 ; 2
Keyword [en]
Extinction, Macroevolution, Microevolution, Natural selection, Speciation
National Category
Evolutionary Biology
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-112476DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-15045-1_3ISBN: 978-3-319-15044-4ISBN: 978-3-319-15045-1OAI: diva2:878284
Available from: 2015-12-08 Created: 2015-12-08 Last updated: 2016-01-15Bibliographically approved

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