Biologists have long believed that bigger is better when it comes to body size, since many lineages of animals, from horses to dinosaurs, have evolved into larger species over time.
Photo shows increase in body size of deep-sea ostracode Poseidonamicus from 40 million years ago to 900,000 years ago. Credit: Gene Hunt, UCSD
But a study published this week by two biologists at the University of California, San Diego in an early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that maxim, known as “Cope’s Rule,” may be only partly true.
The scientists found that populations of tiny crustaceans retrieved from deep-sea sediments over the past 40 million years grew bigger and evolved into larger species, as might be predicted from Cope’s Rule. However, the changes in the sizes of these clam-like crustaceans commonly known as ostracodes —from the genus Poseidonamicus — increased only when the global ocean temperature cooled. When temperatures remained stable, not much happened to body size.
Kim McDonald | EurekAlert!
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