Cope’s Law Tested by Extensive Study of Marine Fauna

A team of scientists from Stanford University drafted in students to help them trawl through a huge amount of data on extinct and extant marine fauna to see whether Cope’s Law can be verified.   Edward Drinker Cope (1840-1897), was an American palaeontologist and naturalist who explored the fossil deposits of the western United States and is most famous for discovering and excavating a number of significant dinosaur specimens.  He postulated that evolution favoured the development of larger organisms, that is the descendants of a species were usually larger than the ancestors.  He cited the evolution of the horse (Equines) in support of his assertion.

The scientists as Stanford University (California), employed undergraduates and students to examine measurement data published on 17,000 different marine genera dating back to the Cambrian geological period to see if Cope’s Law applied.

Does Evolution Favour “Bigness”?  In the Dinosauria Perhaps?

Does evolution favour the development of bigger and bigger animals?

Does evolution favour the development of bigger and bigger animals?

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To read more about this research: Evolution Favours Getting Big

The study published this week in the academic journal “Science” concluded that over the last 542 million years (since the Cambrian geological period), the mean size of marine fauna had increased by 150 times.  This research may prove helpful to teachers as they teach about evolution in schools.

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