How do radically new kinds of organisms evolve?
The Origin of Higher Taxa addresses this essential question, specifically whether the emergence of higher taxa such as orders, classes, and phyla are the result of normal Darwinian evolution acting over a sufficiently long period of time, or whether unusual genetic events and particular environmental and ecological circumstances are also involved. Until very recently, the combination of an incomplete fossil record and a limited understanding about how raw mutations lead via modified ontogenic
processes to significant phenotypic changes, effectively stymied scientific debate. However, it is now timely to revisit the question in the light of the discovery of considerable new fossil material (and new techniques for studying it), together with significant advances in our understanding of
phenotypic development at the molecular level.
This novel text incorporates evidence from morphology, palaeobiology, developmental biology, and ecology, to review those parts of the fossil record that illustrate something of the pattern of acquisition of derived characters in lineages leading to actual higher taxa as well as the environmental conditions under which they occurred. The author's original ideas are set within the context of a broad and balanced review of the latest research in the field. The result is a book which provides a
concise, authoritative, and accessible overview of this fascinating subject for both students and researchers in evolutionary biology and palaeontology.
Dr Tom Kemp is a Emeritus Research Fellow and Curator of the Zoological Collections in the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford. His general field of expertise is vertebrate palaeobiology, and he is particularly interested in the mammal-like reptiles and early mammals, and what can be inferred about the structural, functional and ecological aspects of the origin of mammals from their basal amniote ancestry.
1. Introduction ; 2. The nature of higher taxa ; 3. The nature of organisms ; 4. The palaeontological evidence ; 5. The developmental evidence ; 6. The ecological perspective ; 7. The invertebrate fossil record ; 8. The vertebrate fossil record ; 9. A synthesis