Vienna Series in Theoretical Biology
The Major Transitions in Evolution Revisited
336 pp., 7 x 9 in, 36 b&w illus., 6 tables
- Published: April 22, 2011
- Publisher: The MIT Press
Drawing on recent advances in evolutionary biology, prominent scholars return to the question posed in a pathbreaking book: how evolution itself evolved.
In 1995, John Maynard Smith and Eörs Szathmáry published their influential book The Major Transitions in Evolution. The "transitions" that Maynard Smith and Szathmáry chose to describe all constituted major changes in the kinds of organisms that existed but, most important, these events also transformed the evolutionary process itself. The evolution of new levels of biological organization, such as chromosomes, cells, multicelled organisms, and complex social groups radically changed the kinds of individuals natural selection could act upon. Many of these events also produced revolutionary changes in the process of inheritance, by expanding the range and fidelity of transmission, establishing new inheritance channels, and developing more open-ended sources of variation. Maynard Smith and Szathmáry had planned a major revision of their work, but the death of Maynard Smith in 2004 prevented this. In this volume, prominent scholars (including Szathmáry himself) reconsider and extend the earlier book's themes in light of recent developments in evolutionary biology. The contributors discuss different frameworks for understanding macroevolution, prokaryote evolution (the study of which has been aided by developments in molecular biology), and the complex evolution of multicellularity.
Calcott and Sterelny deserve our thanks for bringing together a renowned group of philosophers and evolutionary biologists to revisit a recent classic with a fair yet critical tone that also treats readers to a glimpse of the cutting edge. This collection is a 'must read' for anyone interested in the promise of theoretical unification in evolutionary biology.
The Quarterly Review of Biology