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The Major Transitions in Evolution

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Originally published  January 1995
4.2/5 Goodreads

Author  John Maynard Smith
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Similar  John Maynard Smith books, Science books, Evolution books

The Major Transitions in Evolution is a book written by John Maynard Smith and Eörs Szathmáry (Oxford University Press, 1995). This was a seminal publication that continues to contribute to ongoing issues in evolutionary biology. At the time of its publication, Egbert Giles Leigh, Jr reviewing for Evolution commented that it "may be the most important book on evolution since [R.A.] Fisher's (1930) The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection".

Maynard Smith and Szathmary authored a review article in Nature

Maynard Smith and Szathmáry identified several properties common to the transitions:

  1. Smaller entities have often come about together to form larger entities. e.g. Chromosomes, eukaryotes, sex multicellular colonies.
  2. Smaller entities often become differentiated as part of a larger entity. e.g. DNA & protein, organelles, anisogamy, tissues, castes
  3. The smaller entities are often unable to replicate in the absence of the larger entity. e.g. DNA, chromosomes, Organelles, tissues, castes
  4. The smaller entities can sometimes disrupt the development of the larger entity, e.g. Meiotic drive (selfish non-Mendelian genes), parthenogenesis, cancers, coup d’état
  5. New ways of transmitting information have arisen.e.g. DNA-protein, cell heredity, epigenesis, universal grammar.

As stated by the authors, this book was aimed at professional biologists and assumes considerable prior knowledge. They have also published a presentation of their ideas for a general readership under the title The Origins of Life — From the Birth of Life to the Origins of Language.

References

The Major Transitions in Evolution Wikipedia


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