Determining the precise timing for the evolutionary origin of groups of organisms has become increasingly important as scientists from diverse disciplines attempt to examine rates of anatomical or molecular evolution and correlate intrinsic biological events to extrinsic environmental events. Molecular clock analyses indicate that many major groups are twice as old, or more, than a literal reading of the fossil record attests, implying that the fossil record is incomplete. Few paleontologists agree that the fossil record is inadequate, arguing instead that our understanding of the molecular clock is far from ideal.
Telling the Evolutionary Time: Molecular Clocks and the Fossil Record represents a discussion between molecular biologists and paleontologists, in which they investigate the significance of competing sources of data, explain the nature of molecular clocks and the fossil record, and strive to develop compromise models that incorporate contradictory opinions. These are presented as a series of case studies dealing with many of the most important groups of complex organisms, such as protists, land plants, flowering plants, complex animals, chordates, vertebrates, tetrapods, and modern birds.
Bringing fresh insight and various perspectives to a complicated argument, this book assembles all sides of the debate into one comprehensive text. It is a significant volume for research scientists and advanced students across the field of evolutionary biology.
Table of Contents
Molecular Clocks: Whence and Whither
Molecular Clocks and a Biological Trigger for Neoproterozoic Snowball Earth Events and the Cambrian Explosion
Phylogenetic Fuses and Evolutionary 'Explosions': Conflicting Evidence and Critical Tests
The Quality of the Fossil Record
Episodic Evolution of Nuclear Small Subunit Ribosomal RNA Gene in the Stem-lineage of Foraminifera
Dating the Origin of Land Plants
Angiosperm Divergence Times: Congruence and Incongruence between Fossils and Sequence Divergence Estimates
The Limitations of the Fossil Record and the Dating of the Origin of the Bilateria
The Origin and Early Evolution of Chordates: Molecular Clocks and the Fossil Record
Bones, Molecules and Crown-tetrapod Origins
The Fossil Record and Molecular Clocks: Basal Radiations within the Neornithes
"We are on the way to being much better informed both about evolution and the still problematic links between molecules and morphology. In helping to lead us to this destination [this book] will have played a valuable part."
- Geological Magazine, May 2004, 141
"Telling The Evolutionary Time presents a good representative cross-section of the diverse viewpoints of this controversial area of evolutionary biology. "
- Plant Systematics & Evolution