punctuated equilibrium


noun

theory of, Biology. a hypothesis holding that the evolution of species proceeds in a characteristic pattern of relative stability for long periods of time interspersed with much shorter periods during which many species become extinct and new species emerge.

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What does “vacillate” mean?
Also called punctuationalism .

Origin of punctuated equilibrium

Coined by Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge, American biologist and paleontologist (born 1943), in their paper “Punctuated equilibria: an alternative to phyletic gradualism” (1972)

Words nearby punctuated equilibrium

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

Scientific definitions for punctuated equilibrium

punctuated equilibrium
[ pŭngkchōō-ā′tĭd ]

The theory that new species evolve suddenly over relatively short periods of time (a few hundred to a thousand years), followed by longer periods in which little genetic change occurs. Punctuated equilibrium is a revision of Darwin's theory that evolution takes place at a slow, constant rate over millions of years. Compare gradualism. See Note at evolution.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Cultural definitions for punctuated equilibrium

punctuated equilibrium

The theory that new species evolve suddenly over brief periods of time, followed by longer periods during which there is no genetic change. Punctuated equilibrium is a revision of Darwin's theory of evolution. (Compare gradualism and catastrophism.)

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.