Comparison of fossil and Recent fishes reveals patterns of evolution related to changing geography and environments. Historical comparison of the fish faunas of eastern and western North America leads to the conclusion that barriers and long-term stability of aquatic habitat are the most important factors controlling species density and broad patterns of evolution. The perspective offered by paleontological evidence is useful because, although neontological samples are rich in anatomical and ecological detail, historiÂ cal inferences based on them are usually chronologically inaccurate. Our tendency to ascribe events to important recent circumstances-geologic, geographic, or cladistic-results in a bias toward interpretations postulating rapid rates and relatively recent causes. In fact, changes in species are generally much slower than changes in geography and climate, and thereÂ fore we cannot assume that fishes have recently adapted to the environments and climates in 'Which they presently live. The scope of this review includes freshwater fishes in North America north of Mexico in Miocene, Pliocene, and Pleistocene sedimentary rocks. I emphasize middle-latitude faunas, which are better known and have richer fossil representation than those of glaciated latitudes. Fossil fishes preserved in freshwater deposits are conveniently separated both ecologically and, for the most part, phylogenetically
Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics – Annual Reviews
Published: Nov 1, 1981
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