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Niles Eldredge: Trilobites & Punctuated Equilibria

Niles Eldredge uses a hammer and chisel on a rock formation in the  Devonian Quarry.
Niles Eldredge at work in the Devonian Quarry, Central New York, 1972.

Niles Eldredge ranks among the towering figures of contemporary evolutionary thought. His seminal 1972 work with Stephen Jay Gould of Harvard on the Theory of Punctuated Equilibria helped change the way in which evolution was viewed in perhaps the most revolutionary manner since Darwin himself first put quill to paper. Their theory challenged Darwin's premise that evolution occurs gradually, but rather asserts that evolution occurs in spurts of speciation in isolation, interspersed with long periods of stasis.

A former Chairman and Curator of the Division of Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History, Eldredge remains at the hub of evolutionary discussion and debate, as well as one of the world's experts on trilobites, specializing in mid-Paleozoic phacopids. He has also analyzed the relationship between global extinctions of the geologic past and the present-day biodiversity crisis, as well as the general relationship between extinction and evolution.

Niles Eldredge holds a chisel and a specimen at Devonian Quarry.
Niles Eldredge at Devonian Quarry, Central New York, August, 2016.
Niles Eldredge (left) and trilobite editors Andy Secher (middle) and Martin Shugar (right) stand outside at Devonian Quarry.
Niles Eldredge (left) with trilobite editors Andy Secher (middle) and Martin Shugar (right).