Body-size evolution in cretaceous molluscs and the status of Cope's rule

  • Jablonski D
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Cope's rule, the tendency for Lineages to evolve to larger body size, is widely seen as a pervasive evolutionary pattern(1-4). However, only a few studies(5-8) have gone beyond enumerating isolated examples to assess its overall frequency relative to body-size decrease or stasis, Thus, although size is clearly an important parameter for microevolution and ecology(9-14), including conservation biology(10), its impact on large-scale patterns remains poorly understood, The prevalence of Cope's rule is even more uncertain, as some reported cases of evolutionary size increase may actually represent an expansion of a clade's size range (a pattern generally termed an 'increase in variance: although not necessarily in the formal statistical sense) rather than a phyletic, directional trend(15-18). I have performed a comprehensive census of body- size changes in a large fauna of Cretaceous bivalve and gastropod genera. A directional net increase in body size (including the loss of small-sized species and thus representing Cope's rule in the strict sense) is no more frequent than an increase in size range among species or a net evolutionary size decrease. Thus the undisputed ecological importance of body size does not translate into a preferred macroevolutionary pattern

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  • David Jablonski

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