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).
|Title of host publication||Pragmatic Evolution|
|Subtitle of host publication||Applications of Evolutionary Theory|
|Publisher||Cambridge University Press|
|Number of pages||14|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Jan 2011|