, Volume 92, Issue 1, pp 1–19 | Cite as

Extinction may not be forever

  • L. D. MartinEmail author
  • T. J. Meehan


Here we review the phenomenon of ecomorph evolution and the hypothesis of iterative climatic cycles. Although a widely known phenomenon, convergent evolution has been underappreciated in both its scope and commonality. The power of natural selection to override genealogy to create similar morphologies (even among distantly related organisms) supports classical Darwinian evolution. That this occurs repeatedly in stratigraphically closely spaced intervals is one of the most striking features of Earth history. Periodic extinctions followed by re-evolution of adaptive types (ecomorphs) are not isolated occurrences but are embedded within complex ecological systems that evolve, become extinct, and repeat themselves in temporal synchrony. These complexes of radiation and extinction bundle the biostratigraphic record and provide the basis for a global stratigraphy. At this scale, climatic change is the only mechanism adequate to explain the observed record of repeating faunas and floras. Understanding of the underlying causes may lead to predictive theories of global biostratigraphy, evolutionary processes, and climatic change.


Eocene Oligocene Biostratigraphy Late Eocene Climatic Cycle 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We wish to thank A. Seilacher, M. Dawson, and two anonymous reviewers for editorial comments. T.J.M. wishes to thank his PhD committee at Kansas University: L.D. Martin, D. Miao, R.W. Wilson, R.M. Timm, P. Wells, and D.W. Frayer.


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© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Research Center, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of KansasLawrenceUSA
  2. 2.Division of ScienceChatham CollegePittsburghUSA
  3. 3.Research AssociateCarnegie Museum of Natural HistoryPittsburghUSA

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