The Major Transitions in Evolution

Paperback | October 1, 1997

byJOHN MAYNARD SMITH, Eors Szathmary

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During evolution, there have been several major changes in the way that genetic information is organized and transmitted from one generation to the next. These transitions include the origin of life itself, the first eukaryotic cells, reproduction by sexual means, the appearance ofmulticellular plants and animals, the emergence of cooperation and of animal societies, and the unique language ability of humans. This is the first book to discuss all of these major transitions. In discussing such a wide range of topics in one volume, the authors are able to highlight thesimilarities between different transitions - for example, between the union of replicating molecules to form chromosomes and of cells to form multicellular organisms. The authors also show how an understanding of one transition sheds light on others. A common theme in the book is that entities thatcould replicate independently before the transition can replicate afterwards only as part of a larger whole. Why, then, does selection between entities at the lower level not disrupt selection at the higher level? In answering this question, the authors offer an explanation for the evolution ofcooperation at all levels of complexity. Written in a clear style, and illustrated with many original diagrams, this book can be read with enjoyment by anyone with an undergraduate training in the biological sciences. It will be ideal for advanced discussion groups on evolution. Although thecontent ranges widely from molecular biology to linguistics and from intragenomic conflict to insect societies, no detailed knowledge of any of these topics is required. Mathematical models are clearly explained, and equations and formulae are kept to a minimum.

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During evolution, there have been several major changes in the way that genetic information is organized and transmitted from one generation to the next. These transitions include the origin of life itself, the first eukaryotic cells, reproduction by sexual means, the appearance ofmulticellular plants and animals, the emergence of coop...

John Maynard Smith (1920-2004) was Emeritus Professor of Biology in the University of Sussex. Eors Szathmary is at the Institute for Advanced Study, Budapest.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:360 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 1.1 inPublished:October 1, 1997Publisher:Oxford University Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:019850294X

ISBN - 13:9780198502944

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Table of Contents

List of TablesPreface1. Introduction2. What is Life?3. Chemical evolution4. The evolution of templates5. The chicken and egg problem6. The origin of translation and the genetic code7. The origin of protocells8. The origin of eukaryotes9. The origin of sex and the nature of species10. Intragenomic conflict11. Symbiosis12. Development in simple organisms13. Gene regulation and cell heredity14. The development of spatial patterns15. Development and evolution16. The origins of societies17. The origins of languageReferencesIndex

Editorial Reviews

"It spans the major transitions in evolution, starting with a prebiotic mix of free molecules and ending with the evolution of human language . . . . A splendid and rewarding tour de force."--Nature