Steven M. Stanley is an American paleontologist and evolutionary biologist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He is best known for his empirical research documenting the evolutionary process of punctuated equilibrium in the fossil record.
Stanley received his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1968. For most of his career he taught geology at Johns Hopkins University. In 1977 Stanley was awarded the Paleontological Society's Charles Schuchert Award which is presented "to a person under 40 whose work reflects excellence and promise in the science of paleontology." In 2007 he was awarded the Society's Paleontological Society Medal, which is "awarded to a person whose eminence is based on advancement of knowledge in paleontology." In 2006 Stanley was awarded the Mary Clark Thompson Medal by the National Academy of Sciences and in 2008 the William H. Twenhofel Medal by the Society for Sedimentary Geology.
In 1972 Stanley developed the Predation Hypothesis to explain the evolution of novelties in the Cambrian explosion. Stanley proposed that predation stimulated prey animals to evolve defenses such as shells, rapid swimming, and burrowing. These strategies also opened new avenues of evolution through functional shifts. Hard shells allowed for filter feeding, and deep burrowing allowed animals to gain new access to food resources.