Exploring macroevolution using modern and fossil data

Michael J Benton*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Macroevolution, encompassing the deep-time patterns of the origins of modern biodiversity, has been discussed in many contexts. Non-Darwinian models such as macromutations have been proposed as a means of bridging seemingly large gaps in knowledge, or as a means to explain the origin of exquisitely adapted body plans. However, such gaps can be spanned by new fossil finds, and complex, integrated organisms can be shown to have evolved piecemeal. For example, the fossil record between dinosaurs and Archaeopteryx has now filled up with astonishing fossil intermediates that show how the unique plexus of avian adaptations emerged step by step over 60 Myr. New numerical approaches to morphometrics and phylogenetic comparative methods allow palaeontologists and biologists to work together on deep-time questions of evolution, to explore how diversity, morphology and function have changed through time. Patterns are more complex than sometimes expected, with frequent decoupling of species diversity and morphological diversity, pointing to the need for some new generalizations about the processes that lie behind such patterns.

Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1810
Early online date10 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2015

Bibliographical note

© 2015 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.


  • Macroevolution
  • Evolution
  • Biodiversity
  • Phylogenetic comparative methods
  • Morphometrics


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