Research NewsEvolution

New Mammal Data Challenge Evolutionary Pulse Theory

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Science  26 Jul 1996:
Vol. 273, Issue 5274, pp. 431-432
DOI: 10.1126/science.273.5274.431


Most paleontologists think climate change influences evolution, but exactly how the two are linked has been a subject of debate. One intriguing theory, the turnover pulse hypothesis proposed by paleontologist Elisabeth Vrba, suggests that abrupt climate change has driven brief pulses of evolution and extinction in animals ranging from antelopes to early human ancestors. But new data from many different animals in Africa—including many of the same species Vrba studied—show a more gradual shift in species, suggesting that climate's effect on mammalian evolution may be more complex.