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Title: Approaches to macroevolution: 1. General concepts and origin of variation.
Abstract Approaches to macroevolution require integration of its two fundamental components, i.e. the origin and the sorting of variation, in a hierarchical framework. Macroevolution occurs in multiple currencies that are only loosely correlated, notably taxonomic diversity, morphological disparity, and functional variety. The origin of variation within this conceptual framework is increasingly understood in developmental terms, with the semi-hierarchical structure of gene regulatory networks (GRNs, used here in a broad sense incorporating not just the genetic circuitry per se but the factors controlling the timing and location of gene expression and repression), the non-linear relation between magnitude of genetic change and the phenotypic results, the evolutionary potential of co-opting existing GRNs, and developmental responsiveness to nongenetic signals (i.e. epigenetics and plasticity), all requiring modification of standard microevolutionary models, and rendering difficult any simple definition of evolutionary novelty. The developmental factors underlying macroevolution create anisotropic probabilities—i.e., an uneven density distribution—of evolutionary change around any given phenotypic starting point, and the potential for coordinated changes among traits that can accommodate change via epigenetic mechanisms. From this standpoint, “punctuated equilibrium” and “phyletic gradualism” simply represent two cells in a matrix of evolutionary models of phenotypic change, and the origin of trends and evolutionary novelty are not simply functions of ecological opportunity. Over long timescales, contingency becomes especiallyimportant, and can be viewed in terms of macroevolutionary lags (the temporal separation between the origin of more » a trait or clade and subsequent diversification); such lags can arise by several mechanisms: as geological or phylogenetic artifacts, or when diversifications require synergistic interactions among traits, or between traits and external events. The temporal and spatial patterns of the origins of evolutionary novelties are a challenge to macroevolutionary theory; individual events can be described retrospectively, but a general model relating development, genetics, and ecology is needed. An accompanying paper (Jablonski in Evol Biol 2017) reviews diversity dynamics and the sorting of variation, with some general conclusions. « less
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Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Evolutionary biology
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
427 - 450
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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