Evolutionary Biology

pp 97-128

The Role of Single-Gene Mutations in the Evolution of Flowering Plants

  • Khidir W. HiluAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Although a general concordance has been achieved concerning the mechanisms underlying evolution at the intraspecific level, transspecific evolution is still a controversial and quite intriguing issue. The controversy is caused by the relatively short time span in which higher taxa evolved and the rarity or lack of morphological intermediates in the fossil record. Two major schools of thought exist regarding macroevolution, one favoring gradual evolution, the other saltation. The former process is based on the accumulation over a long period of time of small mutations, while the latter is considered to occur relatively rapidly as to the result of the isolation of peripheral populations (Mayr, 1942, 1954, 1982) that have undergone large-magnitude mutations [in the extreme case, Goldschmidt’s (1940) “hopeful monsters”] and have been filtered by natural selection (Eldredge and Gould, 1972; Gould, 1977). The history and details of these concepts are discussed by Mayr (1982).