Larson, Allan Department of Biology, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri.
Last reviewed:August 2020
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- Systematics and phylogeny
- Origins of evolutionary novelty
- Key innovation
- Hierarchical expansion
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
Large-scale patterns and processes in the history of life, including the origins of novel organismal designs, evolutionary trends, adaptive radiations, and extinctions. Macroevolutionary research is based on phylogeny, that is, the history of common descent among species (Fig. 1). The formation of species and branching of evolutionary lineages mark the interface between macroevolution and microevolution, which addresses the dynamics of genetic variation within populations. The term macroevolution was used by the geneticist Richard Goldschmidt in the 1940s to challenge the then-prevailing notion that major features of evolutionary history could be understood as simple extrapolations of population genetic principles. The term still often implies this challenge and the expansion of Darwinian evolutionary theory to include evolutionary processes emerging above the species level on time scales encompassing multiple millions of years. Phylogenetic reconstruction, that is, the developmental basis of evolutionary change, and long-term trends in patterns of speciation and extinction among lineages constitute major foci of macroevolutionary studies. See also: Evolution; Extinction; Phylogeny; Population genetics; Speciation
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