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No. 37: Jan-Feb 1985

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Recent Pulsations Of Life

At a recent meeting of scientists at the Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory, E. Vrba, of the Transvaal Museum, in Pretoria, stated:

"If we eventually are able to establish a good time resolution with the continental record, I expect to be able to discern synchronous pulses of evolution that involve many groups of fauna and flora. Many different lineages in the biota will respond by synchronous waves of speciation and extinction to global temperature extremes and attendant environmental changes. This is my starting hypothesis."

Vrba was speaking mainly about the last 25 million years, a mere flash in geological time. For this brief period, the Deep Sea Drilling Program has provided geologists with a detailed and continuous record of climate changes as they were recorded in deep-sea sediments. By contrast, the faunal history of the continents is rather fragmentary, making it rather difficult to match up pulsations of climate with pulsations of life. Even so, scientists have found rather strong correlations between climatary change and biological speciation and extinction at 15, 5, and 2.4 million years ago.

(Lewin, Roger; "The Paleoclimatic Magic Numbers Game," Science, 226:154, 1984.)

Comment. Note that this is just the period our ancestors seemed to be evolving rapidly. Also interesting is the general agreement between Vrba's statement about the driving forces behind evolution and McClintock's conclusion quoted earlier under BIOLOGY.

From Science Frontiers #37, JAN-FEB 1985. 1985-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

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  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987