XXII.2 At a general level, the most common cause of extinction of a species is its presence in the wrong place at the wrong time

At a general level, the most common cause of extinction of a species is “bad luck”, the fact that it was present at the wrong time in the wrong place.Losing the coevolutionary battle with another species apparently occurs far less often.It seems that, at the very least for tetrapod vertebrates, new species mostly expanded into a previously vacated ecological space (Benton 1996).Apparently the vast majority of extinctions occurred in that, at a certain moment, the species was suddenly exposed to conditions that it had not encountered in the past and to which it was thus not adapted.Of course, amongst other things, this means that it is not species and developmental lines that were best able to adapt to the current conditions in their environments that survive for long times, but rather species and evolutionary lines that were fortunately able to survive in situations that they had never encountered before.Thus, paleontologists often point out the contrast between microevolution, based on survival of the fittest, and macroevolution, based rather on survival of the luckiest.Obviously, the degree to which this sharp division corresponds to facts could be a matter for long discussions.In any case, compared to microevolutionary processes, luck certainly plays a much greater role in macroevolution (Raup 1994).

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The classical Darwinian theory of evolution can explain the evolution of adaptive traits only in asexual organisms. The frozen plasticity theory is much more general: It can also explain the origin and evolution of adaptive traits in both asexual and sexual organisms Read more
Draft translation from: Evoluční biologie, 2. vydání (Evolutionary biology, 2nd edition), J. Flegr, Academia Prague 2009. The translation was not done by biologist, therefore any suggestion concerning proper scientific terminology and language usage are highly welcomed. You can send your comments to flegratcesnet [dot] cz. Thank you.