1. THE THEORY The theory of punctuated equilibria (16, 24, 25, 60) claims that most evolutionÂ ary change occurs in rapid bursts, at the time of lineage splitting (speciation), and that such punctuational events are separated by long periods of stasis during which little or no morphological change takes place. The theory arose from a study of the fossil record, and its acceptance or rejection ultimately will depend on our interpretation of that record. This review does not discuss how far the theory is correct, but rather asks what explanations can be offered for it. The question would be a waste of time if the theory were wholly false, of course. However, it seems clear that stasis is a real phenomenon, at least in some lineages at some times. It is harder to be sure about the nature of the changes, when they do occur. Thus the sudden replacement of one form by another in a II 0066-4197/83/1215ï¿½0011$02.QO MAYNARD SMITH particular place may mean no more than that the new form evolved elsewhere; it does not by itself prove that the new form evolved suddenly, at the time of speciation. The theory of punctuated equilibria was first presented
Annual Review of Genetics – Annual Reviews
Published: Dec 1, 1983
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