Natura Fecit Saltum: Punctuationalism Pervades the Natural Sciences

  • Graham P. WallisEmail author


Despite parallel revolutions of uniformitarianism in geology and gradualism in biology c200 years ago, it is now clear that rare events of large effect prevail in the natural world. While astronomical and geological phenomena are more overt (e.g. asteroid impact, supervolcanoes, earthquakes, tsunami), the general and widespread prevalence of major genetic, ecological and climatic events, and their long-term effects on life on Earth is becoming more widely appreciated. Biogeography abounds with examples of rare dispersal events shaping the biota of volcanic islands; ecological studies are showing us how adaptation can happen rapidly in association with habitat change; genomic studies show that major adaptations and speciation can happen rapidly through selection on just a few genetic variants; ecology shows us how tipping points can lead to major and irreversible shifts in ecosystems; climate change is exacerbating the frequency and degree of extreme weather events all over the globe. An unfortunate corollary of climate change is that the long-term integrated effects of global warming are experienced most strongly in connection with the most extreme events.


Black swans Climate change Evolution Geology Macroevolution Punctuated equilibrium 


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand

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