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, that evolution favours getting big.   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.

Evolution Favours Getting Big

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?

Evolution favours getting big.

Dinosaurs tended to get bigger over time. Is Cope’s Law correct? Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur.

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.

For dinosaur models and figures, plus replicas of other prehistoric animals: Dinosaur Figures and Prehistoric Animal Models.

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