Credit: Mesa Shumacher/Santa Fe Institute Throughout life's history on earth, biological diversity has gone through ebbs and flows—periods of rapid evolution and of dramatic extinctions.
Instead of the typical bell-shaped curve, the fossil record shows a fat-tailed distribution, with extreme, outlier, events occurring with higher-than-expected probability.
In a new paper published in Science Advances, Rominger and colleagues Miguel Fuentes (San Sebastián University, Chile) and Pablo Marquet (Pontifical Catholic University of Chile) have taken a new approach to tackling this question.
"It turns out, just invoking that simple idea, with some very simple mathematics, described the patterns in the fossil record very well."
"We wondered if Fuentes' elegant approach could also describe the evolutionary dynamics we see in the fossil record."
evolution of volatility in origination and extinction explains fat-tailed fluctuations in Phanerozoic biodiversity" Science Advances (2019).