Evolutionary Significance of Morphospecies: A Test with Cheilostome Bryozoa

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Science  04 May 1990:
Vol. 248, Issue 4955, pp. 579-583
DOI: 10.1126/science.248.4955.579


Much of the controversy concerning the theory of punctuated equilibrium stems from skepticism about the biologic validity of fossil morphospecies, particularly for supposedly simple invertebrate taxa like cheilostome Bryozoa that form the bulk of the fossil record. However, evidence from breeding experiments and protein electrophoresis shows that morphospecific identity of cheilostomes is heritable and that morphospecies are genetically distinct with no indication of morphologically cryptic species. Thus paleontologists can study cheilostome evolution at the species level, and previously demonstrated pattems suggesting punctuated speciation in cheilostomes should be taken at face value.

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