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Microevolution vs. Megaevolution: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 27, 2023
Microevolution involves small-scale changes within species, while megaevolution pertains to the emergence of new higher taxa over extended periods.

Key Differences

Microevolution refers to small evolutionary changes that occur within a species over relatively short periods of time. These changes often manifest as slight alterations in gene frequencies within a population. Megaevolution, on the other hand, concerns the grander evolutionary patterns and processes leading to the emergence of entirely new species, genera, or even higher taxonomic groups.
Within the spectrum of evolution, microevolution can be viewed as the foundational layer, where genetic variations, adaptations, and other minor modifications occur within populations. This is in contrast to megaevolution, which examines the larger, more sweeping evolutionary events that might encompass vast timescales and lead to the origination or extinction of whole lineages.
Factors like mutations, gene flow, genetic drift, and natural selection often drive microevolution. As species adapt to their environments or new conditions, microevolutionary processes help fine-tune their genetic makeup. Conversely, megaevolution looks beyond individual species adaptations and focuses on the overarching evolutionary trends and major shifts in biodiversity.
One might picture microevolution as the individual brush strokes on a canvas, each contributing to the traits and adaptations of species. Megaevolution would be the broader picture or theme that emerges from multiple combined brush strokes, reflecting the larger evolutionary narrative of life on Earth.

Comparison Chart


Small-scale, within species.
Large-scale, across higher taxa.

Time Frame

Short-term evolutionary changes.
Long-term evolutionary events.

Main Drivers

Mutations, gene flow, genetic drift, natural selection.
Large scale speciation, extinction, and evolutionary innovation.


Changes in gene frequencies within populations.
Emergence of new species, genera, or higher taxonomic groups.


Individual brush strokes on a canvas.
Broader picture or theme of evolutionary narrative.

Microevolution and Megaevolution Definitions


It's the evolution on a small scale affecting single populations.
The unique beak shapes among Galápagos finches demonstrate microevolution in action.


Evolutionary phenomena that transcend individual species boundaries.
Megaevolution involves understanding both the origin and extinction of major lineages.


The process by which small changes occur within a species over time.
Microevolution is often driven by environmental pressures and genetic mutations.


Megaevolution encompasses broad evolutionary patterns over extended periods.
The emergence of mammals from reptilian ancestors is a classic instance of megaevolution.


Evolutionary changes restricted to individual populations.
A shift in moth coloration due to industrial pollution showcases microevolution.


It's the evolution resulting in larger taxonomic changes like new species or genera.
The diversification of flowering plants during the Cretaceous is an event of megaevolution.


Microevolution details the minor genetic variations within species.
Over a few generations, pesticide resistance in pests is an example of microevolution.


The process of substantial evolutionary shifts leading to new higher taxa.
The rise of birds from theropod dinosaurs exemplifies megaevolution.


Small-scale genetic shifts due to factors like mutation and selection.
The development of antibiotic resistance in bacteria is a result of microevolution.


Major shifts in life's evolutionary narrative, resulting in new species or groups.
The transition from aquatic to terrestrial life is a pivotal moment of megaevolution.


Small-scale evolution consisting of genetic changes occurring usually within a single species and over a shorter period of time than in macroevolution.


Very large-scale evolution


Small-scale changes in the history of life, such as changes in allele frequencies in a population (over a few generations); also known as change at or below the species level.


Evolution resulting from small specific genetic changes that can lead to a new subspecies


Can microevolution lead to megaevolution?

Yes, accumulative microevolutionary changes can result in megaevolutionary events.

Which term encompasses the rise of new species?


Does microevolution occur over a short or long timescale?

It occurs over relatively short timescales.

What is the primary concern of megaevolution?

It deals with the emergence of new higher taxa.

Can a single mutation lead to microevolution?

Yes, if it significantly impacts a population's genetic makeup.

How does megaevolution relate to evolutionary history?

It represents major shifts in life's evolutionary narrative.

Do both terms fit within the broader context of evolutionary biology?

Yes, both address different scales of evolutionary change.

Can microevolution explain antibiotic resistance in bacteria?

Yes, it's a prime example of microevolutionary adaptation.

Is microevolution always observable in a human lifetime?

Not always, but some events, like pesticide resistance, can manifest rapidly.

What are the driving factors of microevolution?

Factors include mutations, genetic drift, and natural selection.

Are genetic drift and gene flow microevolutionary mechanisms?

Yes, they both influence gene frequencies in populations.

Does megaevolution encompass both origin and extinction events?

Yes, it looks at the broader trends in evolutionary history.

What's a significant event highlighting megaevolution?

The Cambrian explosion that led to a rapid diversification of life forms.

Do both microevolution and megaevolution play a role in Earth's biodiversity?

Yes, both contribute to the diversity and complexity of life on Earth.

What does microevolution focus on?

It focuses on small genetic changes within species.

How does megaevolution differ in scale?

It operates on a larger scale, affecting higher taxonomic groups.

Is the origin of birds from dinosaurs an example of microevolution or megaevolution?


Could changes in a single gene lead to microevolutionary shifts?

Yes, if it has a noticeable impact on the population's traits or fitness.

Is the emergence of mammals from reptiles a microevolutionary or megaevolutionary event?

It's a megaevolutionary event.

Which concept deals more with speciation?

About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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