Research NewsEvolution

Life's Winners Keep Their Poise in Tough Times

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Science  21 Nov 1997:
Vol. 278, Issue 5342, pp. 1403
DOI: 10.1126/science.278.5342.1403

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What makes a winner in the fight for evolutionary dominance? A pair of paleontologists say they have identified a trait that may play a role: the ability to buffer the body from environmental insults. At the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America last month in Salt Lake City, they reported that, at least in the sea, what they call "buffered physiology" played a central role in determining evolutionary winners and losers during the past half-billion years. Organisms that could buffer their internal organs from changes in ocean chemistry were less likely to be wiped out and more likely to rebound after a mass extinction than were their more sensitive neighbors, these researchers found.