The evolutionary consequence of the individualistic response to climate change

Authors


John R. Stewart, Department of Palaeontology, Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK. Tel.: 044 2079426231; e-mail: s.john@nhm.ac.uk

Abstract

The Quaternary fossil record has abundant evidence for ecologically nonanalogue communities made up of combinations of modern taxa not seen in sympatry today. A brief review of the literature detailing these nonanalogue communities is given with a discussion of their various proposed causes. The individualistic, Gleasonian, response of species to climate and environmental change is favoured by many. The degree to which communities are nonanalogue appears to increase with greater time depth, and this progressive process is a necessary outcome of the individualistic response of species to climate change through time. In addition, it is noted that populations within species, as well as the species as a whole, respond individualistically. This paper proposes that many elements of nonanalogue communities are extinct populations, which may explain their environmentally anomalous combinations. These extinct populations are, by definition, lineages without descendents. It is further proposed that the differential extinction of populations, as a result of continuous ecological reassembly, could amount to a significant evolutionary phenomenon.

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