Evolution, missing links and climate change: recent advances in understanding transformational macroevolution

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    Since Charles Darwin published his seminal work On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (Darwin, 1859), museums around the globe have been greatly expanding their holdings of palaeontological collections, and it is estimated that they now hold several hundred million specimens (McNamara and Long, 2007). Most scholars today acknowledge that the little information gained from the few fossils known in Darwin's day was almost superfluous in formulating his theory of evolution; it was largely icing on the cake to reinforce the work achieved by his lifetime studying both biology and geology (Bowler, 2009). Today, these vast collections of fossils continue to provide valuable data towards resolving many of the crucial stages in the transformational macroevolution of the major vertebrate groups, as well as greatly elucidating both the nature and tempo of evolutionary trends (McNamara, 1997; Gould, 2002). Fossils have also provided valuable reference points for testing the reliability of molecular divergence times for defining the timing of critical branching events in phylogenies (Kumar and Hedges, 1998; Hurley et al., 2009), as well as providing nodes in time for the hypothetical origins of certain kinds of physiological traits such as air-breathing (Long, 1993; Clement and Long, 2010), or reproductive behaviours such as copulation (Long et al., 2008, 2009).

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationPragmatic Evolution
    Subtitle of host publicationApplications of Evolutionary Theory
    PublisherCambridge University Press
    Number of pages14
    ISBN (Electronic)9780511980381
    ISBN (Print)9780521760553
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011


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