Sleeping beauties: the evolutionary innovations that wait millions of years to come good

Andreas Wagner, in an extract from his new book, details the evolutions – in both biology and human culture – that lay dormant for years before suddenly encountering the conditions in which to become successful:

“These and many other new life forms remained dormant before succeeding explosively. They are the sleeping beauties of biological evolution. They cast doubt on many widely assumed beliefs about success and failure. And these doubts apply not just to the innovations of nature, but also to those of human culture.”

This reminds me of the theory of the “slow hunch”, which Clive Thompson wrote about last year.