Losing Complexity: The Role of Simplification in Macroevolution

Maureen A. O'Malley, Jeremy G. Wideman, Iñaki Ruiz-Trillo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Macroevolutionary patterns can be produced by combinations of diverse and even oppositional dynamics. A growing body of data indicates that secondary simplifications of molecular and cellular structures are common. Some major diversifications in eukaryotes have occurred because of loss and minimalisation; numerous episodes in prokaryote evolution have likewise been driven by the reduction of structure. After examining a range of examples of secondary simplification and its consequences across the tree of life, we address how macroevolutionary explanations might incorporate simplification as well as complexification, and adaptive as well as nonadaptive dynamics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)608-621
Number of pages14
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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