Speciation and Macroevolution

In Sahotra Sarkar & Anya Plutynski (eds.), A Companion to the Philosophy of Biology. Blackwell's/Routledge (2008)

Anya Plutynski
Washington University in St. Louis
Speciation is the process by which one or more species arises from a common ancestor, and “macroevolution” refers to patterns and processes at and above the species level – or, transitions in higher taxa, such as new families, phyla or genera. “Macroevolution” is contrasted with “microevolution,” evolutionary change within populations, due to migration, assortative mating, selection, mutation and drift. In the evolutionary synthesis of the 1930’s and 40’s, Haldane , Dobzhansky , Mayr , and Simpson argued that the origin of species and higher taxa were, given the right environmental conditions and sufficient time, the product of the same microevolutionary factors yielding change within populations. Dobzhansky reviewed the evidence from genetics, and argued, “nothing in the known macroevolutionary phenomena would require other than the known genetic principles for causal explanation” . In sum, genetic variation between species was not different in kind from the genetic variation within species. Dobzhansky concluded that one may “reluctantly put an equal sign” between micro- and macroevolution. In this chapter, I review arguments for and against this "neo-Darwinian" consensus on speciation, as well as debates concerning macroevolution and punctuated equilibrium
Keywords macroevolution  speciation  punctuated equilibrium
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