, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 95-112

Taxic evolutionary paleoecology and the ecological context of macroevolutionary change

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Summary

A traditional focus of evolutionary paleoecology has been the reconstruction of the selective forces that have affected evolving lineages through time. If the history of those lineages is dominated by stasis and punctuation, however, this is at best an inadequate and at worst a misdirected research strategy for macroevolution, because long-term stasis implies that environmental factors may have less influence on evolving lineages than previously believed. Such reasoning has led some proponents of punctuated views to reject ecological interactions as predominant or even significant forces in evolution. This is not a necessary conclusion. It is possible to accept the empirical predominance of stasis in evolution and at the same time the importance of ecology in affecting the course of evolutionary trends within lineages. If stasis prevails, ecology matters in the evolution of lineages if either (1) stabilizing selection is an important cause of stasis or (2) ecological interactions play an important role in controlling the speciation process. Viewing allopatric speciation explicitly as a three-stage process (consisting of formation, persistence and differentiation of isolated populations) clarifies testing of the role of ecology in speciation and may redirect clade-specific evolutionary paleoecology towards more enlightening interaction with other areas of macroevolutionary study.