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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2004 February 29; 359(1442): 295–303.
PMCID: PMC1693323

Continuing the debate on the role of Quaternary environmental change for macroevolution.


The Quaternary has been a period of dramatic environmental change for the past 1.8 Myr, with major shifts in distributions and abundances of terrestrial and marine organisms. The evolutionary consequences of this have been debated since the nineteenth century. However, the lack of accurate relative and absolute time-scales for evolutions and environmental change inhibited progress. We do now have an understanding of time-scales. Palaeoecology has demonstrated the individualistic nature of species' response to environmental change, but lacks a means of determining ancestry. DNA characterization of modern populations in relation to their distributions nicely complements palaeoecological results by contributing ancestry. The chance to understand how species originate and the causal factors of speciation (environmental change or otherwise) may be within reach.

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