Phenotypic Evolution: The Ongoing Synthesis Public Deposited

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  • I explore the proposition that evolutionary biology is currently in the midst of its greatest period of synthesis. This period, which I call the Ongoing Synthesis, began in 1963 and continues at the present time. I use analysis of citations, conduct, and content to compare the Ongoing Synthesis to widely recognized periods of synthesis in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. To compare content, I focus on phenotypic evolution and compare current efforts with George Gaylord Simpson’s struggle to understand evolution in deep geological time. The essence of current effort is captured by the question, What is the best model for phenotypic evolution? Although many investigators are actively engaged in answering this question, I single out two examples of my own collaborative work for emphasis here. These two studies share three important characteristics: diagnosis of evolutionary pattern using massive data sets, validation of model parameter values using compilations of estimates (e.g., heritability, stabilizing selection, distance to an intermediate optimum), and identification of evolutionary process using alternative models of stochastic evolution. Our primary findings (discovery of the blunderbuss pattern and the result that rare bursts of evolution carry lineages out of established adaptive zones) compare favorably with important insights from the Modern Synthesis.
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  • Arnold, S. J. (2014). Phenotypic Evolution: The Ongoing Synthesis. The American Naturalist, 183(6), 729-746. doi:10.1086/675304
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  • 183
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  • 6
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  • The preparation of this article was supported by an OPUS grant from the National Science Foundation (DEB-0947162).
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