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Speciation in the fossil record

Benton, Michael J. and Pearson, Paul Nicholas 2001. Speciation in the fossil record. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 16 (7) , pp. 405-411. 10.1016/S0169-5347(01)02149-8

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It is easy to claim that the fossil record says nothing about speciation because the biological species concept (which relies on interbreeding) cannot be applied to it and genetic studies cannot be carried out on it. However, fossilized organisms are often preserved in sufficient abundance for populations of intergrading morphs to be recognized, which, by analogy with modern populations, are probably biological species. Moreover, the fossil record is our only reliable documentation of the sequence of past events over long time intervals: the processes of speciation are generally too slow to be observed directly, and permanent reproductive isolation can only be verified with hindsight. Recent work has shown that some parts of the fossil record are astonishingly complete and well documented, and patterns of lineage splitting can be examined in detail. Marine plankton appear to show gradual speciation, with subsequent morphological differentiation of lineages taking up to 500 000 years to occur. Marine invertebrates and vertebrates more commonly show punctuated patterns, with periods of rapid speciation followed by long-term stasis of species lineages.

Item Type: Article
Status: Published
Schools: Earth and Ocean Sciences
Subjects: Q Science > QH Natural history > QH426 Genetics
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0169-5347
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 03:00

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