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Did evolution unfold steadily, or in fits and starts?

| | June 22, 2017

In 1972, the eminent palaeontologist Stephen Jay Gould and his colleague Niles Eldredge…sought to explain so-called gaps in the palaeontological record – missing fossils assumed to represent transitional phases between ancient species and the modern ones into which they evolved – by suggesting they were an illusion.

Evolution, they proposed, wasn’t a gradual process, marked by the slow accumulation of new characteristics. Rather, they said, “the history of evolution is not one of stately unfolding, but a story of homeostatic equilibria, disturbed only ‘rarely’ … by rapid and episodic events of speciation.”

The controversial theory was roundly attacked by some other prominent voices in the field…However, [Michael Landis and Joshua Schraiber of Temple University in Pennsylvania] push the argument back in favour of speciation as a comparatively rapid, rather than gradual, process.

The pair constructed a mathematical model based on random probability distribution and fed in datasets derived from the morphological characteristics of about 50 clades (genetically-related groups of animals) covering mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and amphibians.

The results fitted best within a framework of punctuated development, with long periods of stasis – averaging around 10 million years – between “jump processes” of “pulsed evolution” lasting as little as 100 generations.

[Read the full study here]

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: New model backs controversial idea of how evolution works

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Click the link above to read the full, original article.
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