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Trends Ecol Evol. 1998 Apr 1;13(4):151-6.

Evolutionary explosions and the phylogenetic fuse.

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Dept of Biological Anthropology, Oxford University, Oxford, UK OX2 6QS.


A literal reading of the fossil record indicates that the early Cambrian (c. 545 million years ago) and early Tertiary (c. 65 million years ago) were characterized by enormously accelerated periods of morphological evolution marking the appearance of the animal phyla, and modern bird and placental mammal orders, respectively. Recently, the evidence for these evolutionary `explosions' has been questioned by cladistic and biogeographic studies which reveal that periods of diversification before these events are missing from the fossil record. Furthermore, molecular evidence indicates that prolonged periods of evolutionary innovation and cladogenesis lit the fuse long before the `explosions' apparent in the fossil record.


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