Royal Society Publishing

Several million years of stability among insect species because of, or in spite of, Ice Age climatic instability?

G. R. Coope


There is a curious paradox in the evolutionary legacy of Ice Ages. Studies of modern species suggest that they are currently evolving in response to changing environments. If extrapolated into the context of Quaternary Ice Ages, this evidence would suggest that the frequent climatic changes should have stimulated the evolutionary process and thus increased the rates of change within species and the number of speciation events. Extinction rates would, similarly, be high. Quaternary insect studies call into question these interpretations. They indicate that insect species show a remarkable degree of stability throughout the Ice Age climatic oscillations. The paradox arises from the apparent contradiction between abundant evidence of incipient speciation in insect populations at the present day and the evidence that, in the geological past, this apparently did not lead to sustained evolution.