Drivers of evolutionary change: understanding stasis and non-stasis through integration of micro- and macroevolution

About the project

The project will investigate whether - and how - macro-evolution can be fully understood as a result of micro-evolutionary processes.

This will be achieved by integrating micro-evolutionary theory with theories on macro-evolution, hence determining whether we can explain macro-evolution within the framework of the Modern Synthesis or need to go beyond it.

For answering these fundamental questions we have assembled an international and multidisciplinary team of researchers that includes world leading scientists in their relevant fields. Given the track-record, background and expertise that the team brings together, we expect cutting-edge results with broad implications within the field of evolutionary biology.

The disconnect between micro- and macro-evolution is in part due to a surprisingly persistent disconnect between ecological and evolutionary research. In order to understand the whole picture we need to bring ecological and evolutionary dynamics together into a common
model-framework where not only their relative weight but, we believe more importantly, their dynamic interactions including feedback loops can be investigated. For this purpose we need causality modelling/analysis, a key component of our proposed project.

The project achieves focus and feasibility by investigating in depth the phenomenon of stasis vs. non-stasis of evolution. By assessing to what degree micro-evolutionary processes can explain this observed macro-evolutionary pattern we also assess to what degree we need a
separate theory for macro-evolution.

The crucial novelty that makes the project operational is the integration of mathematical modelling with state-of-the-art analysis of fossil mammal data as well as experimental microbiological data.


Primary objective:

To fundamentally understand macroevolution in relation to microevolutionary processes by bringing together microevolutionary theory with theories on macroevolution.

Secondary objectives:
1. To understand the balance between abiotic and biotic interactions as drivers of  macroevolution.
2. To explain stasis vs. non-stasis mode of evolution
3. To bridge biology, mathematical modelling and data analysis in the study of macroevolutionary questions by synchronising relevant concepts and measures. This will allow us to move from theory to a more operational approach, as well as to transfer conclusions between modelling, data analysis and theory


This Project is funded by the Research Council of Norway (RCN) FRIMEDBIO

RCN Project Number: 263149 (Project data bank at RCN)

UiO Project Number: 144535


01.09.2017 - 28.02.2022


  • Stenseth, Nils Christian; Andersson, Leif & Hoekstra, Hopi E. (2022). Gregor Johann Mendel and the development of modern evolutionary biology. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. ISSN 0027-8424. 119(30). doi: 10.1073/pnas.2201327119.
  • Brun, Mats Kirkesæther; Ahmed, Elyes; Nordbotten, Jan Martin & Stenseth, Nils Christian (2022). Modeling the Process of Speciation Using a Multiscale Framework Including A Posteriori Error Estimates. SIAM Journal on Applied Mathematics. ISSN 0036-1399. 82(2), p. 450–475. doi: 10.1137/21M1405228. Full text in Research Archive
  • Grunert, Katrin; Holden, Helge; Jakobsen, Espen Robstad & Stenseth, Nils Christian (2021). Evolutionarily stable strategies in stable and periodically fluctuating populations: The Rosenzweig–MacArthur predator–prey model. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. ISSN 0027-8424. 118(4), p. 1–7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2017463118. Full text in Research Archive
  • Janzen, Thijs; Bokma, Folmer & Etienne, Rampal S. (2021). Nucleotide substitutions during speciation may explain substitution rate variation. Systematic Biology. ISSN 1063-5157. p. 1–11. doi: 10.1093/sysbio/syab085. Full text in Research Archive
  • Nordbotten, Jan Martin; Bokma, Folmer; Hermansen, Jo Skeie & Stenseth, Nils Christian (2020). The dynamics of trait variance in multi-species communities. Royal Society Open Science. ISSN 2054-5703. 7(8), p. 1–20. doi: 10.1098/rsos.200321. Full text in Research Archive
  • Wortel, Meike Tessa; Peters, Han; Bonachela, Juan A. & Stenseth, Nils Christian (2020). Continual evolution through coupled fast and slow feedbacks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. ISSN 0027-8424. 117(8), p. 4234–4242. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1916345117. Full text in Research Archive
  • Monroe, Melanie Joan; Butchart, Stuart H M; Mooers, Arne O & Bokma, Folmer (2019). The dynamics underlying avian extinction trajectories forecast a wave of extinctions. Biology Letters. ISSN 1744-9561. 15(12), p. 1–5. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2019.0633. Full text in Research Archive
  • Hermansen, Jo Skeie; Starrfelt, Jostein; Voje, Kjetil L. & Stenseth, Nils Christian (2018). Macroevolutionary consequences of sexual conflict. Biology Letters. ISSN 1744-9561. 14(6), p. 1–4. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2018.0186.

View all works in Cristin

  • Grunert, Katrin; Holden, Helge; Jakobsen, Espen Robstad & Stenseth, Nils Christian (2021). Reply to Best and Ashby: The concept of evolutionarily stable strategies (ESS) helps link ecology and evolution. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. ISSN 0027-8424. 118(18). doi: 10.1073/pnas.2102861118.

View all works in Cristin

Published Jan. 20, 2021 1:29 PM - Last modified Jan. 20, 2021 1:31 PM