A burst of life may explain increased evolutionary rates.
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The Cambrian explosion saw an incredible burst of innovation in the body plans and habits of animals. In the first rigorous estimates of early arthropod evolutionary rates, research suggests that this “big bang” is compatible with Darwin’s natural selection. The study results were published in the journal Current Biology.
According to University of Adelaide’s Mike Lee, for a long time, this simultaneous burst of life, with little to no precursors, appeared at odds the concept of gradual evolution through natural selection. However, the study findings reveal that this pattern could have been produced through moderately accelerated evolution, sustained over a few tens of millions of years. A five-fold increase in evolutionary rates would have compressed almost 100 million years’ worth of change into a relatively brief 20 million years.