Commentary: Tempo of evolutionary change in ecological systems

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As ecology and evolutionary biology developed during the 20th century one thing that frustrated an integration of research programs in these areas was the assumption that ecological and evolutionary processes operated on very different time scales. In 1961 the ecologist Lawrence Slobodkin reflected this assumption in his distinction between "evolutionary time" and "ecological time." This commentary reflects on the four papers in this Special Section that advance our understanding of the history of research at the intersection of phenotypes, genotypes, ecology, and evolution using plants as study organisms. Early in the 20th century at least some researchers, especially in agricultural systems, were already using observations and experiments to show how natural selection could operate over relatively short time periods and small spatial scales. These four studies offer a more nuanced view of the history of our understanding of the rate of phenotypic change via natural selection and the use of experiments to study evolutionary change. They illuminate the route that has led to the current presumption that in many cases ecological and evolutionary processes may indeed operate on similar, not dissimilar, time scales.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)80-82
Number of pages3
JournalStudies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C :Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015


  • Ecological and evolutionary time
  • Ecology and evolution
  • Evolutionary ecology
  • History

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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