Evolutionary Biology

, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 28-48

First online:

Paleontological Patterns, Macroecological Dynamics and the Evolutionary Process

  • Bruce S. LiebermanAffiliated withDepartment of Geology, University of Kansas Email author 
  • , William MillerIIIAffiliated withGeology Department, Humboldt State University
  • , Niles EldredgeAffiliated withDivision of Paleontology, The American Museum of Natural History

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Here we consider evolutionary patterns writ large in the fossil record. We argue that Darwin recognized but downgraded or de-emphasized several of these important patterns, and we consider what a renewed emphasis on these patterns can tell us about the evolutionary process. In particular, one of the key patterns we focus on is the role geographic isolation plays in fomenting evolutionary divergence; another one of the key patterns is stasis of species; the final pattern is turnovers, which exist at several hierarchical scales, including regional ecosystem replacement and pulses of speciation and extinction. We consider how each one of these patterns are related to the dynamic of changing ecological and environmental conditions over time and also investigate their significance in light of other concepts including punctuated equilibria and hierarchy theory. Ultimately, we tie each of these patterns into a framework involving macroecological dynamics and the important role environmental change plays in shaping evolution from the micro- to macroscale.


Darwin Environment Ecology Species Punctuated equilibria Turnovers Rates of speciation