proaches to studying evolutionary dynamics, while also highlighting the power of our particular experimental system.
Imagine, then, that you have discovered a well-preserved and clearly stratified fossil bed that provides a record of evolution extending thousands of generations for the particular organism that you study. You could measure the size and shape of the organisms that were preserved and perhaps deduce the rate of change in these traits. But even from a near-perfect record, you would have great difficulty inferring the evolutionary processes—selection, drift, mutation, recombination, and migration—affecting these morphological traits. It might be difficult even to exclude the hypothesis that any phenotypic trends reflect nonheritable changes caused by the direct effects of a changing environment on the organism.
But imagine that you could infer that the environment had not changed for thousands of generations, so that any phenotypic trends must have resulted from underlying genetic changes. Moreover, you could be sure that there was no influx of genotypes from other populations and that the population was initially homogeneous, so that all of the genetic variation in the fossil population must have arisen in situ. You could then confidently assess the tempo and mode of morphological evolution.
Now imagine that you found many fossil beds, all in identical environments and having the same initial genetic state. You could evaluate the repeatability of evolution by examining the parallelism or divergence of the populations from one another. Any repeatability (or lack thereof) would also bear on the success of specific hypotheses that sought to address the adaptive significance of particular phenotypic trends.
And the fantasy continues. Imagine that you could resurrect these organisms (not merely bits of fossil DNA but the entire living organisms) and reconstruct their environment exactly as it was during the thousands of generations preserved in the fossil bed. You could measure not only the organism's morphology, but also its functional capacities and genetic composition. You could even place derived and ancestral forms in competition to determine their relative fitness in the "fossil" environment. You could assess which phenotypes promoted ecological success, and you could evaluate the similarity of the adaptive solutions achieved by the replicate populations, thereby disentangling the roles of "chance and necessity" (Monod, 1971) in evolutionary dynamics.
Still more opportunities exist in this fantastic world. You could travel back in time and manipulate populations by altering their evolutionary history or their environment, and then return to the present to examine the effect of these conditions on the dynamics of adaptation and