A recent study by a team of Syracuse University geologists has punched holes in a relatively new theory of species evolution called coordinated stasis; the theories involved are based on findings from fossil-bearing rocks that underlie Central New York. The SU study was published in “Geology,” the premier journal of the Geological Society of America.
First proposed in 1995 by Carl Brett of the University of Cincinnati and Gordon Baird of the State University of New York at Fredonia, coordinated stasis attempts to describe the emergence and disappearance of species across geologic time by suggesting that species living together in the same environment go through long periods of stability—some six million years—and then undergo a rapid, almost complete turnover, during which old species disappear and new ones emerge. Until 1995, most researchers believed that species emerged and disappeared independent of each other throughout time.
“Our study suggests that there may be more variability in species composition through time than predicted by coordinated stasis,” says Linda Ivany, one of the co-authors of the SU study. “It will be the blueprint study against which other researchers will present their data sets to determine whether coordinated stasis is present or not.”
The SU study resulted from research that lead author Nicole Bonuso G’01 conducted for her master’s thesis project in the Department of Earth Sciences and an analysis of some 20 years of fossil data—38,000 specimens—compiled by Bonuso’s faculty advisors and co-authors Cathryn Newton, dean of The College of Arts and Sciences, and Prof. James C. Brower. The data were collected from the Central New York Middle Devonian Hamilton Group, the original test case for coordinated stasis, which is characterized by beautifully preserved and richly diverse fossils that date back more than six million years.
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