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Molds, Molecules, and Metazoa

Molds, Molecules, and Metazoa: Growing Points in Evolutionary Biology

Peter R. Grant
Henry S. Horn
Copyright Date: 1992
Pages: 194
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  • Book Info
    Molds, Molecules, and Metazoa
    Book Description:

    Through an integration of systematics, genetics, and related disciplines, the Modern Synthesis of Evolutionary Biology came into being over fifty years ago. Knowledge of evolution has since been transformed by several revolutions: the way we interpret the fossil record has been radically affected by theories of continental drift and asteroid impacts; the way we classify organisms has been influenced by the development of cladistics. Perhaps the most dramatic revolution has been the explosion in molecular biology of information about the genome. Aiming to capture the excitement of modern evolutionary biology, six prominent scientists here explore important issues and problems in their areas of specialization and identify the most promising directions of future research.

    The scope of this volume ranges from macroevolutionary patterns in the Precambrian to molecular evolution of the genome. Major themes include the origin and maintenance of variation and the causes of evolutionary change. Chapters on paleontology, ecology, behavior, development, and cell and molecular biology are contributed by Jim Valentine, Graham Bell, Mary Jane West Eberhard, Leo Buss, Marc Kirschner, and Marty Kreitman. The book contains an introductory chapter by John Bonner, whose seminal work is honored here.

    Originally published in 1992.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6267-2
    Subjects: Biological Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Contributors
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
  5. 1 Evolution and the Rest of Biology: The Past
    (pp. 3-16)

    My passion for biology spans over fifty years, and during the course of those fifty-odd years two things have happened: one to me and one to the world. In my own case, as the years progressed, I have become increasingly obsessed with the idea that evolution by natural selection is the most useful, the most important, the most all-enveloping concept in all of biology. That has been my own evolution. In the case of the world at large, there have been the most staggering advances and rapid changes of monumental importance in biology during this period. Here I would like...

  6. 2 Lessons from the History of Life
    (pp. 17-32)

    Santayana’s famous aphorism about being doomed to repeat history when in ignorance of it is not without relevance to the history of life. Were we to understand the history of life, we might be able to avoid the creation, through human activities, of disasters and catastrophes such as have been visited naturally upon the biosphere in the past. While studies of the living biota by systematists, ecologists, and evolutionists are absolutely necessary for conserving the biosphere in the face of changes driven by human population, they may not be sufficient by themselves to permit the depth of understanding necessary for...

  7. 3 Five Properties of Environments
    (pp. 33-56)

    Ecology is the biological science of the environment; and after nearly a century of scientific ecology we know a great deal about a wide range of environments. What we still lack is any general theory of the environment. In genetics and evolutionary biology, the accumulation of knowledge is guided by a few simple and powerful theories. The equally vast accumulation of knowledge about environments seems to have proceeded in the virtual absence of general theory. Some areas of ecology, as it is usually understood, are indeed organized around clearly defined principles: demography is an obvious example, and some aspects of...

  8. 4 Behavior and Evolution
    (pp. 57-76)

    John Bonner (e.g., 1980, 1988) has often treated development and behavior together when discussing evolution. I used to credit this to the intrinsic fascination of behavior (my favorite subject), even for a developmental biologist. But the connection is clearly deeper than that, as Bonner’s books show: behavior and development have a special common relation to selection and evolution.

    A fundamental quality shared by behavior and development is condition-sensitivity: both are partly directed by circumstances. It is the curse of environmental influence that sometimes has made both of these topics seem awkward for evolutionists. Condition-sensitive processes are in some sense “nongenetic”;...

  9. 5 The Middle Ground of Biology: Themes in the Evolution of Development
    (pp. 77-98)

    During John Bonner’s professional lifetime the biological sciences became increasingly specialized and fractionated. Biology became “bigtime”; the cult of the system, the technique, and the laboratory became increasingly paramount. We have become accustomed to an era when it is not simply possible, but likely, to find that an individual with a doctorate in the biological sciences is ignorant of the existence of entire phyla. Throughout this period, John Bonner has been one of the few articulate voices for synthetic thinking in biology. He has repeatedly asked us “why one cannot be a reductionist and a holist at the same time”...

  10. 6 Evolution of the Cell
    (pp. 99-126)

    During the past generation of frenetic activity in cell biology, most people have had little time to think about the evolution of the cell. Evolution on a macroscopic level has been the province of paleontologists. On a microscopic level, a great deal of interest has been shown in rates of mutation and phylogenetic distances derived from protein and nucleic acid sequence comparisons, but these studies usually have been pursued in a manner unconnected to cell biological or developmental mechanisms. Nevertheless, knowledge of protein sequences has led to more easily quantifiable evidence for common descent, as an unexpected level of conservatism...

  11. 7 Will Molecular Biology Solve Evolution?
    (pp. 127-150)

    More effectively than anyone of his era, John Bonner’s research spanned the two great experimental traditions in biology: cellular and developmental biology on the one hand, and organismal and evolutionary biology on the other. Although he recognized certain essential differences between them—the kinds of questions evolutionists ask are different than those of cell biologists—he nevertheless spent much of his career trying to minimize the distinctions.

    InOn Development(1977), for example, he espoused a view of life bordering on the metaphysical: all biological processes, whether they be molecular, genetical, cellular, developmental, organismal, or even populational, are manifestations of...

  12. 8 Overview: Variation and Change
    (pp. 151-158)

    Evolutionary biology is the study of processes and products of evolution. Its practitioners try to understand two classes of phenomena: (1) the diversity of organisms at all taxonomic levels; and (2) the nature of traits or characters and their variation, extending from the size, composition, and function of the genome to the size, composition, and functions of adults, as well as all the stages in between by which they are connected. Thus evolutionary biology is concerned with explaining the properties of individuals and the properties of taxa.

    Contributors to this book were chosen to span the total broad range of...

  13. References
    (pp. 159-174)
  14. Index
    (pp. 175-181)