GSA Connects 2021 in Portland, Oregon

Paper No. 97-6
Presentation Time: 2:50 PM


HUNT, Gene1, LOVE, Alan C.2, GRABOWSKI, Mark3, HOULE, David4, LIOW, Lee Hsiang5, PORTO, Arthur6, TSUBOI, Masahito7 and VOJE, Kjetil L.5, (1)Department of Paleobiology, Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, NHB MRC 121, P.O. Box 37012, Washington, DC 20013-7012, (2)Dept. of Philosophy, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, (3)Research Centre in Evolutionary Anthropology and Palaeoecology, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, L2 2QP, United Kingdom, (4)Biological Science, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306, (5)Natural History Museum, University of Oslo, Oslo, 0562, Norway, (6)Department for Biological Science and Center for Computation and Technology, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, (7)Department of Biology, Lund University, Lund, 22100, Sweden

The concept of evolvability—the capacity of a population to produce and maintain evolutionarily relevant variation—has become increasingly prominent in evolutionary biology. Although paleontology has a long history of investigating questions of evolvability, often invoking different but allied terminology, the study of evolvability in the fossil record has seemed intrinsically problematic. How can we surmount difficulties in disentangling whether the causes of evolutionary patterns arise from variational properties of traits or lineages rather than due to selection and ecological success? Despite these challenges, the fossil record is unique in offering growing sources of data that span millions of years and therefore capture evolutionary patterns of sustained duration and significance otherwise inaccessible to evolutionary biologists. Additionally, there are a variety of strategic possibilities for combining prominent neontological approaches to evolvability with those from paleontology. We illustrate three of these possibilities with quantitative genetics, evolutionary developmental biology, and phylogenetic models of macroevolution. In conclusion, we provide a methodological schema that focuses on the conceptualization, measurement, and testing of hypotheses to motivate and provide guidance for future empirical and theoretical studies of evolvability in the fossil record.