Fossils and Evolution
The book is about the ideas, methodology and scope of contemporary palaeobiology, rather than a comprehensive, detailed survey of the factual basis of the subject. It addresses the issue of how on the one hand evolutionary theory is necessary for interpretation of the fossil record, and yet on the other the fossils themselves can contribute to evolutionary theory. This is shown not to be the circular argument between pattern and process sometimes alleged, but a matter of
understanding carefully the interrelationship between palaeontological and neontological evidence.
The book is organised into two sections. Part 1 consists of four chapters outlining the principles, namely: the nature of the pattern/process relationship, taxonomic methods and the analysis of pattern, evolutionary theory and the analysis of process and the nature of incompleteness of the fossil record and what to do about it. Armed with these principles and methods, Part 2 is devoted to the five central areas of contemporary research in evolutionary palaeobiology. These are: fossils and
phylogenetic inference; the mechanism of speciation; taxonomic turnover on the geological time-scale; mass-extinctions; the origin of new higher taxa. In each case the nature of the questions and the relevant kinds of evidence, including such new sources as molecular sequence data and stable isotope
ratios where appropriate, are reviewed. The extent to which palaeobiology has, and has not yet, contributed to providing the sought after answers is made clear.