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The measurement of species selection on evolving characters

By Carl Simpson

Posted 15 Aug 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/176438

Many processes can contribute to macroevolutionary change. This fact is the source of the wide variety of macroevolutionary change across time and taxa as well as the bane of paleobiological research trying to understand how macroevolution works. Here, I present a general framework for understanding the variety of macroevolutionary phenomena. Based on Price's theorem, this framework provides a simple quantitative means to understand (1) the macroevolutionary processes that are possible and (2) the way those processes interact with each other. The major qualitative features of macroevolution depend first on the number of processes that co-occur and then on the magnitudes and evolutionary directions of those processes. Species selection, the major macroevolutionary process, consists of patterns of differential rates of speciation and extinction. Its macroevolutionary efficacy depends on the presences of sufficient microevolutionary change. Conversely, microevolutionary change is limited in power by the independent evolution of species, and species selection acting across populations of species can amplify or suppress microevolution. Non-trends may result if species selection sufficiently neutralizes microevolution and may yield stable macroevolutionary patterns over many millions of years.

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