Skip to main content
Dryad logo

Data from: Simple versus complex models of trait evolution and stasis as a response to environmental change


Hunt, Gene; Hopkins, Melanie J.; Lidgard, Scott (2015), Data from: Simple versus complex models of trait evolution and stasis as a response to environmental change, Dryad, Dataset,


Previous analyses of evolutionary patterns, or modes, in fossil lineages have focused overwhelmingly on three simple models: stasis, random walks, and directional evolution. Here we use likelihood methods to fit an expanded set of evolutionary models to a large compilation of ancestor–descendant series of populations from the fossil record. In addition to the standard three models, we assess more complex models with punctuations and shifts from one evolutionary mode to another. As in previous studies, we find that stasis is common in the fossil record, as is a strict version of stasis that entails no real evolutionary changes. Incidence of directional evolution is relatively low (13%), but higher than in previous studies because our analytical approach can more sensitively detect noisy trends. Complex evolutionary models are often favored, overwhelmingly so for sequences comprising many samples. This finding is consistent with evolutionary dynamics that are, in reality, more complex than any of the models we consider. Furthermore, the timing of shifts in evolutionary dynamics varies among traits measured from the same series. Finally, we use our empirical collection of evolutionary sequences and a long and highly resolved proxy for global climate to inform simulations in which traits adaptively track temperature changes over time. When realistically calibrated, we find that this simple model can reproduce important aspects of our paleontological results. We conclude that observed paleontological patterns, including the prevalence of stasis, need not be inconsistent with adaptive evolution, even in the face of unstable physical environments.

Usage Notes