Ever since Darwins day, scientists have been trying to understand how interactions among living creatures---competition and predation, for example---drive evolution.
Recent work by paleontologists Tomasz Baumiller of the University of Michigan and Forest Gahn of the Smithsonians National Museum of Natural History offers new insights into the process. A report on their research appears in todays issue of Science.
Biologists long have speculated that predators and prey play a game of evolutionary one-upsmanship, in which an adaptation on the part of one---say, sharper teeth in a predator---prompts a "go-you-one-better" response in the other---tougher hide in the prey, for instance. Hints that this has occurred are scattered throughout the fossil record, but not evenly, Baumiller said. During one part of the Paleozoic Era known as the Middle Paleozoic Marine Revolution, for example, the diversity of shell-crushing predators increased explosively. Around the same time, some 380 million years ago, mollusks and other shell-bearing marine animals developed better protective devices, such as more spines or more tightly-coiled shells.
Nancy Ross-Flanigan | EurekAlert!
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