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Mass Extinctions change rules of evolution

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posted on Sep, 5 2010 @ 01:24 PM
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Reinterpretation of the fossil record suggests a new answer to one of evolution’s existential questions: whether global mass extinctions are just short-term diversions in life’s preordained course, or send life careening down wholly new paths.

Some scientists have suggested the former. Rates of species diversification — the speed at which groups adapt and fill open ecological niches — seemed to predict what’s flourished in the aftermath of past planetary cataclysms. But according to the calculations of Macquarie University paleobiologist John Alroy, that’s just not the case.



“Mass extinction fundamentally changes the dynamics. It changes the composition of the biosphere forever. You can’t simply predict the winners and losers from what groups have done before,” he said.
… In the past, many evolutionary biologists thought life would eventually recover its present composition, said Alroy. In 100 million years or so, the same general creatures would again roam the Earth. “But that isn’t in the data,” he said.
Instead Alroy’s analysis suggests that the future is inherently unpredictable, that what comes next can’t be extrapolated from what is measured now, no more than a mid-Cretaceous observer could have guessed that a few tiny rodents would someday occupy every ecological niche then ruled by reptiles.

“The current mass extinction is not going to simply put things out of whack for a while, and then things will go back to where we started, or would have gone anyway,” said Alroy. Mass extinction “changes the rules of evolution.”

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posted on Sep, 5 2010 @ 04:19 PM
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reply to post by Serizawa
 


I think it does not change an rule. What it does change are the circumstances that influence any development. Like a small rodent that does not have to be afraid of its old predators will develop different from one that does. Then there are the biological niches that have become vacant. The species that will be the first to start filling the niche will develop different from the second or third, but even as first they are not certain to become ruler. As another species that has developed a trade for a whole other thing could find itself in the same niche and be superior because of its talent...

The only thing changing is human understanding... But what's new about that.

Thank you for posting



posted on Sep, 5 2010 @ 04:32 PM
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reply to post by Serizawa
 


EXCELLENT find. Thank you. S&F

This bit from your OP is worth posting:


...given that Earth is now experiencing another mass extinction. Starting with extinctions of large land animals more than 50,000 years ago that continued as modern humans proliferated around the globe, and picking up pace in the Agricultural and Industrial ages, current extinction rates are far beyond levels capable of unraveling entire food webs in coming centuries. Ecologists estimate that between 50 and 90 percent of all species are doomed without profound changes in human resource use.



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