Macroevolution is evolution on a scale at or above the level of species, in contrast with microevolution, which refers to smaller evolutionary changes of allele frequencies within a species or population. Macroevolution and microevolution describe fundamentally identical processes on different scales.
The process of speciation may fall within the purview of either, depending on the forces thought to drive it. Paleontology, evolutionary developmental biology, comparative genomics and genomic phylostratigraphy contribute most of the evidence for macroevolution‘s patterns and processes.
Origin of the term
Russian entomologist Yuri Filipchenko first coined the terms “macroevolution” and “microevolution” in 1927 in his German language work, “Variabilität und Variation”. Since the inception of the two terms, their meanings have been revised several times. The term macroevolution fell into a certain disfavour when it was taken over by writers such as the paleontologist Otto Schindewolf to describe their theories of orthogenesis. This was the vitalist belief that organisms evolve in a definite direction due to an internal “driving force”.
Macroevolution includes changes occurring on geological time scales, in contrast to microevolution, which occurs on any time scale.
Macroevolution and the modern synthesis
Within the modern synthesis of the early 20th century, macroevolution is thought of as the compounded effects of microevolution. Thus, the distinction between micro- and macroevolution is not a fundamental one – the only difference between them is of time and scale. As Ernst W. Mayr observes, “transspecific evolution is nothing but an extrapolation and magnification of the events that take place within populations and species…it is misleading to make a distinction between the causes of micro- and macroevolution”. However, time is not a necessary distinguishing factor – macroevolution can happen without gradual compounding of small changes; whole-genome duplication can result in speciation occurring over a single generation – this is especially common in plants.
Changes in the genes regulating development have also been proposed as being important in producing speciation through large and relatively sudden changes in animals’ morphology.
Types of macroevolution
There are many ways to view macroevolution, for example, by observing changes in the genetics, morphology, taxonomy, ecology, and behavior of organisms, though these are interrelated. Sahney et al. stated the connection as “As taxonomic diversity has increased, there have been incentives for tetrapods to move into new modes of life, where initially resources may seem unlimited, there are few competitors and possible refuge from danger. And as ecological diversity increases, taxa diversify from their ancestors at a much greater rate among faunas with more superior, innovative or more flexible adaptations.”
Molecular evolution occurs through small changes in the molecular or cellular level. Over a long period of time, this can cause big effects on the genetics of organisms. Taxonomic evolution occurs through small changes between populations and then species. Over a long period of time, this can cause big effects on the taxonomy of organisms, with the growth of whole new clades above the species level. Morphological evolution occurs through small changes in the morphology of an organism. Over a long period of time, this can cause big effects on the morphology of major clades. This can be clearly seen in the Cetacea, where throughout the group’s early evolution, hindlimbs were still present. However over millions of years the hindlimbs regressed and became internal.
Abrupt transformations from one biologic system to another, for example the passing of life from water into land or the transition from invertebrates to vertebrates, are rare. Few major biological types have emerged during the evolutionary history of life. When lifeforms take such giant leaps, they meet little to no competition and are able to exploit many available niches, following an adaptive radiation. This can lead to convergent evolution as the empty niches are filled by whichever lifeform encounters them.
Subjects studied within macroevolution include:
- Adaptive radiations such as the Cambrian Explosion.
- Changes in biodiversity through time.
- Genome evolution, like horizontal gene transfer, genome fusions in endosymbioses, and adaptive changes in genome size.
- Mass extinctions.
- Estimating diversification rates, including rates of speciation and extinction.
- The debate between punctuated equilibrium and gradualism.
- The role of development in shaping evolution, particularly such topics as heterochrony and phenotypic plasticity.
- Stanley, S. M. (1 February 1975). “A theory of evolution above the species level”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 72 (2): 646–650. Bibcode:1975PNAS…72..646S. doi:10.1073/pnas.72.2.646. ISSN 0027-8424. PMC 432371. PMID 1054846.
- Gould, Stephen Jay. (2002). The structure of evolutionary theory. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-00613-5. OCLC 47869352.
- Hautmann, Michael (2020). “What is macroevolution?”. Palaeontology. 63 (1): 1–11. doi:10.1111/pala.12465. ISSN 0031-0239.
- Philiptschenko, J. (1927). Variabilität und Variation. Berlin: Borntraeger.
- Darwin, C. (1859). On the origin of species by means of natural selection. London: John Murray.
- Goldschmidt, R. (1933). “Some aspects of evolution”. Science. 78 (2033): 539–547. Bibcode:1933Sci….78..539G. doi:10.1126/science.78.2033.539. PMID 17811930.
- Goldschmidt, R. (1940). The material basis of evolution. Yale University Press.
- Theißen, Günter (March 2009). “Saltational evolution: hopeful monsters are here to stay”. Theory in Biosciences. 128 (1): 43–51. doi:10.1007/s12064-009-0058-z. ISSN 1431-7613. PMID 19224263. S2CID 4983539.
- Rieppel, Olivier (13 March 2017). Turtles as hopeful monsters : origins and evolution. Bloomington, Indiana. ISBN 978-0-253-02507-4. OCLC 962141060.
- Dobzhanski, T. (1937). Genetics and the origin of species. Columbia University Press.
- Dawkins, Richard, 1941- (1982). The extended phenotype : the gene as the unit of selection. Oxford [Oxfordshire]: Freeman. ISBN 0-7167-1358-6. OCLC 7652745.
- Jablonski, David (December 2008). “Species Selection: Theory and Data”. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics. 39 (1): 501–524. doi:10.1146/annurev.ecolsys.39.110707.173510. ISSN 1543-592X.
- Greenwood, P. H. (1979). “Macroevolution – myth or reality ?”. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 12 (4): 293–304. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8312.1979.tb00061.x.
- Grantham, T A (November 1995). “Hierarchical Approaches to Macroevolution: Recent Work on Species Selection and the “Effect Hypothesis““. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics. 26 (1): 301–321. doi:10.1146/annurev.es.26.110195.001505. ISSN 0066-4162.
- McLain, Denson K.; Moulton, Michael P.; Redfearn, Todd P. (October 1995). “Sexual Selection and the Risk of Extinction of Introduced Birds on Oceanic Islands”. Oikos. 74 (1): 27. doi:10.2307/3545671. ISSN 0030-1299. JSTOR 3545671.
- Moen, R. A. “Antler growth and extinction of Irish elk”. Evolutionary Ecology Research. 1: 235–249.
- Martins, Maria João Fernandes; Puckett, T. Markham; Lockwood, Rowan; Swaddle, John P.; Hunt, Gene (April 2018). “High male sexual investment as a driver of extinction in fossil ostracods”. Nature. 556 (7701): 366–369. Bibcode:2018Natur.556..366M. doi:10.1038/s41586-018-0020-7. ISSN 0028-0836. PMID 29643505. S2CID 4925632.
- Eldredge, N.; Gould, S. J. (1972). Punctuated equilibria: an alternative to phyletic gradualism. pp. 82–115.
- Gould, Stephen Jay; Eldredge, Niles (1977). “Punctuated equilibria: the tempo and mode of evolution reconsidered”. Paleobiology. 3 (2): 115–151. doi:10.1017/s0094837300005224. ISSN 0094-8373.
- Sepkoski, J. John (1981). “A factor analytic description of the Phanerozoic marine fossil record”. Paleobiology. 7 (1): 36–53. doi:10.1017/s0094837300003778. ISSN 0094-8373.
- Sepkoski, J. John (1984). “A kinetic model of Phanerozoic taxonomic diversity. III. Post-Paleozoic families and mass extinctions”. Paleobiology. 10 (2): 246–267. doi:10.1017/s0094837300008186. ISSN 0094-8373.
- Gould, Stephen Jay (1985). “The paradox of the first tier: an agenda for paleobiology”. Paleobiology. 11 (1): 2–12. doi:10.1017/s0094837300011350. ISSN 0094-8373.
- Gould, Stephen Jay; Calloway, C. Bradford (1980). “Clams and brachiopods—ships that pass in the night”. Paleobiology. 6 (4): 383–396. doi:10.1017/s0094837300003572. ISSN 0094-8373.
- Stanley, Steven M. (1979). Macroevolution, pattern and process. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman. ISBN 0-7167-1092-7. OCLC 5101557.
- Van Valen, L. (1973). “A new evolutionary law”. Evolutionary Theory. 1: 1–30.
- Grinin, L., Markov, A. V., Korotayev, A. Aromorphoses in Biological and Social Evolution: Some General Rules for Biological and Social Forms of Macroevolution / Social evolution & History, vol.8, num. 2, 2009
Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia