Chapter

Disparity and Diversity

Maclaurin James and Sterelny Kim

in What Is Biodiversity?

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2008 | ISBN: 9780226500805
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226500829 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226500829.003.0003
Disparity and Diversity

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This chapter, which considers the idea that tracking species number does not track a second important dimension of biodiversity—phenotypic richness—focuses on the claim that diversity (species number) does not track disparity (variation across phenotypes). A biota can be species rich but not very disparate, if the species composing the biota are rather similar. Arguably, many island faunas are more diverse than disparate, for they often derive from a few founder species, and this constrains the variation that evolves. Stephen Jay Gould made this diversity–disparity distinction famous in his 1989 classic Wonderful Life, and it has generated ongoing controversy. The chapter develops his take on the Cambrian and its significance in more detail; explains the importance of the issues he raises; and outlines some of the challenges to his view. It also sketches recent developments in understanding the Cambrian, and their implications for the Gouldian picture.

Keywords: biodiversity; species number; phenotypic richness; Stephen Jay Gould; Cambrian

Chapter.  6883 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Biodiversity and Conservation Biology

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