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This content will become publicly available on September 1, 2023

Title: Evolvability and Macroevolution: Overview and Synthesis
Abstract Evolvability is best addressed from a multi-level, macroevolutionary perspective through a comparative approach that tests for among-clade differences in phenotypic diversification in response to an opportunity, such as encountered after a mass extinction, entering a new adaptive zone, or entering a new geographic area. Analyzing the dynamics of clades under similar environmental conditions can (partially) factor out shared external drivers to recognize intrinsic differences in evolvability, aiming for a macroevolutionary analog of a common-garden experiment. Analyses will be most powerful when integrating neontological and paleontological data: determining differences among extant populations that can be hypothesized to generate large-scale, long-term contrasts in evolvability among clades; or observing large-scale differences among clade histories that can by hypothesized to reflect contrasts in genetics and development observed directly in extant populations. However, many comparative analyses can be informative on their own, as explored in this overview. Differences in clade-level evolvability can be visualized in diversity-disparity plots, which can quantify positive and negative departures of phenotypic productivity from stochastic expectations scaled to taxonomic diversification. Factors that evidently can promote evolvability include modularity—when selection aligns with modular structure or with morphological integration patterns; pronounced ontogenetic changes in morphology, as in allometry or multiphase life cycles; more » genome size; and a variety of evolutionary novelties, which can also be evaluated using macroevolutionary lags between the acquisition of a trait and phenotypic diversification, and dead-clade-walking patterns that may signal a loss of evolvability when extrinsic factors can be excluded. High speciation rates may indirectly foster phenotypic evolvability, and vice versa. Mechanisms are controversial, but clade evolvability may be higher in the Cambrian, and possibly early in the history of clades at other times; in the tropics; and, for marine organisms, in shallow-water disturbed habitats. « less
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Evolutionary Biology
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
265 to 291
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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