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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: June 2012

16 - Speciation and extinction in the fossil record of North American mammals



Paleontological data have been used for decades to address a series of very general and intrinsically interesting questions concerning speciation. Many of them are essentially microevolutionary, morphological or both. What is the relative prevalence of anagenesis and cladogensis (Wagner & Erwin 1995)? Do constraints on morphology cause occupation of morphospace to slow down as diversity increases (Foote 1993)? Is morphological change gradual or punctuated across speciation events (Simpson 1944)?

A survey of the analytical paleobiology literature would reveal, however, that interest in all of these questions has waned over the last decade or two. The one topic relating to speciation that remains very popular is the quantification and modelling of turnover rates (Foote 1994b, 2000, 2003; Sepkoski 1998; Newman & Eble 1999; Kirchner and Weil 2000; Allen et al. 2006; Alroy 2008). Coincidentally and fortuitously, the explosion of molecular data sets and great improvements in phylogenetic methods have led to quantifying speciation rates by tracking the accumulation of lineages through time (Nee et al. 1992, 1994; Purvis et al. 1995; Magallon & Sanderson 2001; Roelants et al. 2007).

Nonetheless, paleontological research has focused far more strongly on taxonomic diversity than on speciation in recent years (Alroy 1996, 1998b, 2000; Miller & Foote 1996; Sepkoski 1997; Alroy et al. 2001, 2008; Connolly & Miller 2001; Peters & Foote 2001; Smith 2001; Jablonski et al. 2003; Bush et al. 2004; Krug & Patzkowsky 2004; Allen et al. 2006; Crampton et al. 2006).

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