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Trends Ecol Evol. 2006 Jun;21(6):322-8. Epub 2006 Apr 19.

What can we learn about ecology and evolution from the fossil record?

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Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California-San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0244, USA.


The increased application of abundance data embedded within a more detailed and precise environmental context is enabling paleontologists to explore more rigorously the dynamics and underlying processes of ecological and evolutionary change in deep time. Several recent findings are of special theoretical interest. Community membership is commonly more stable and persistent than expected by chance, even in the face of the extreme environmental changes of the Ice Ages, and major evolutionary novelties commonly lie dormant for tens of millions of years before the ecological explosions of the clades that possess them. As we discuss here, questions such as these cannot be adequately addressed without the use of the fossil record.

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