A macroevolutionary expansion of the modern synthesis and the importance of extrinsic abiotic factors



This contribution examines the Modern Synthesis in the light of its historical underpinnings, attempts at expansion and treatment of macroevolutionary theory. Particular emphasis is given to the need to better understand the patterns and processes operating on species and higher-level biological entities within a hierarchical framework, as they are often not congruent with lower-level processes. We then focus on the oft-overlooked importance of extrinsic abiotic drivers (e.g. tectonic change, sea-level and climatic fluctuations, as well as factors resulting in mass extinctions) in directing evolution. We propose that the fundamental niche is a species-level property useful in testing for the effects of extrinsic abiotic drivers on macroevolutionary patterns and potential instances of species-level selection. Integration of a diverse array of fields requires both the addition of new information and a standardized theoretical framework for understanding how the effects of change at one level reverberate to other levels. These are some of the remaining ingredients necessary for building a truly synthetic theory of evolution.