- The Paleontological Society
Jeffrey S. Levington. 2001. Genetics, Paleontology and Macroevolution, second edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 617 p. (paperback, ISBN 0 521 00550 7, hardback ISBN 0 521 80317 9)
Macroevolution, defined by Jeffrey Levington as “the sum of the processes that explain the character-state transition that diagnose evolutionary differences of major taxonomic rank” (p. 2), is indeed a macrodefinition that demands a broad brush for its explanation. After a brief introduction to systematic methods (Chapter 2) Levington casts his net in the Recent world (Chapter 3) to capture the type of morphological and biochemical differences that we observe among modern species. He finds no case for most of these differences arising solely at speciation events. In Chapter 4 he discusses the relationship between development and evolution. He sees a particular ontogenetic trajectory as a primarily stabilizing phenomenon, constrained by phylogenetic history and, because of its complex interaction of genetic messages, alterable only by accumulations of small changes. Basically, this theme in continued in Chapter 5 where the relationship between form and function is explored. He certainly accepts the idea of key changes but insists that they need explanation within a functional framework, irrespective of whether that be investigated empirically or theoretically. In Chapters 6 and 7 specific patterns of morphological change in the fossil record are identified and discussed, together with broader patterns of origination of groups, diversification and extinction. Much of this large section will be familiar reading to paleontologists but it is closely tied with the preceding analysis of the Recent world.
The book is large (509 pages) and its style discursive, ducking and weaving between assumptions and methodologies of systematic theory, speciation and natural …