Punctuated equilibrium (also called punctuated equilibria) is a theory in evolutionary biology which proposes that most species will exhibit little net evolutionary change for most of their geological history, remaining in an extended state called stasis. When significant evolutionary change occurs, the theory proposes that it is generally restricted to rare and geologically rapid events of branching speciation called cladogenesis. Cladogenesis is the process by which a species splits into two distinct species, rather than one species gradually transforming into another.

In 1972, paleontologists Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould published a landmark paper developing this theory and called it punctuated equilibria. Their paper built upon Ernst Mayr's theory of geographic speciation, I. Michael Lerner's theories of developmental and genetic homeostasis, as well as their own empirical research. Eldredge and Gould proposed that the degree of gradualism commonly attributed to Charles Darwin is virtually nonexistent in the fossil record, and that stasis dominates the history of most fossil species.

"Punctuated Equilibrium" in SupervolcanoEdit

"Punctuated Equilibrium" was a song written by Justin Nachman of Squirt Frog and the Evolving Tadpoles. Not everyone could make a song about Stephen Jay Gould's attack on classical Darwinism but Justin had a Master's in biology he was wasting as much as Rob Ferguson had a wasted Bachelor's in engineering.[1]

Literary NoteEdit

Simon Conway Morris, who may have inspired the character Jack Conway in Harry Turtledove's "Worlds Enough, and Time", was a grad student of Niles Eldredge and his thesis was based in part on the official description of Hallucegenia that he did. Stephen Jay Gould described his and Eldredge's work along with that of two other students of Eldredge in his Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History.


  1. Eruption, pg. 36.

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