Life Cycles: Reflections of an Evolutionary Biologist

Princeton University Press
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Within a single captivating narrative, John Bonner combines an intensely personal memoir of scientific progress and an overview of what we now know about living things. Bonner, a major participant in the development of biology as an experimental science, draws on his life-long study of slime molds for an understanding of the life cycle-the foundation of all biology. In an age of increasing specialization and fragmentation among subfields of biology, this is a unique work of reflection and integration.

Originally published in 1993.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover 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.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Mar 8, 2015
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Pages
222
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ISBN
9781400872770
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Science / Life Sciences / Biology
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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The seemingly innocent observation that the activities of organisms bring about changes in environments is so obvious that it seems an unlikely focus for a new line of thinking about evolution. Yet niche construction--as this process of organism-driven environmental modification is known--has hidden complexities. By transforming biotic and abiotic sources of natural selection in external environments, niche construction generates feedback in evolution on a scale hitherto underestimated--and in a manner that transforms the evolutionary dynamic. It also plays a critical role in ecology, supporting ecosystem engineering and influencing the flow of energy and nutrients through ecosystems. Despite this, niche construction has been given short shrift in theoretical biology, in part because it cannot be fully understood within the framework of standard evolutionary theory.

Wedding evolution and ecology, this book extends evolutionary theory by formally including niche construction and ecological inheritance as additional evolutionary processes. The authors support their historic move with empirical data, theoretical population genetics, and conceptual models. They also describe new research methods capable of testing the theory. They demonstrate how their theory can resolve long-standing problems in ecology, particularly by advancing the sorely needed synthesis of ecology and evolution, and how it offers an evolutionary basis for the human sciences.


Already hailed as a pioneering work by some of the world's most influential biologists, this is a rare, potentially field-changing contribution to the biological sciences.

The list keeps growing! The latest in Government Institutes' 'non-specialist' series, Biology for Nonbiologists continues the tradition established by Toxicology for Non-Toxicologists and Chemistry for Nonchemists, by providing environmental and occupational-safety-and-health practitioners and students with a comprehensive overview of the principles and concepts of modern biology. Covering everything from basic chemistry principles and the consequences of biology's interaction with the environment to basic biological principles and applications, this convenient handbook provides a quick course on the science of biology. You'll gain an understanding of and skill in biological principles and learn key biology concepts, concerns, and practices without spending weeks in a classroom. Biology for Nonbiologists focuses on three areas: environmental biology and ecology as they apply to environmental regulatory compliance programs, human biology, and community and ecosystem dynamics. However, it also covers all major biological themes, including the cellular basis for life, the interactions of organisms, and the evolutionary process of all beings. The author explains scientific concepts with little reference to mathematics and physical science and little technical language, making the text easier to understand and more engaging for non-science readers. To further demystify the science, Spellman also lists and defines essential biology terms and terms not often used in the environmental and safety fields. Special study aids, including end-of-chapter reviews and checkmarks that highlight important points, enhance learning and allow readers to evaluate their understanding of the concepts presented.
John Tyler Bonner, a major participant in the development of biology as an experimental science, is the author not only of important monographs but also of a wonderfully readable book, Life Cycles, which is both a personal memoir and a profound commentary on the central themes of biology. This volume of essays presents new material that extends the concepts from Life Cycles and his other writings. Its originality lies in comparing key basic biological processes at different levels, from molecular interactions through multicellular development to behavior and social interactions. The first chapter in the book discusses self-organization and natural selection; the second, competition and natural selection; and the third, gene accumulation and gene silencing. The fourth chapter examines the division of labor in organisms at all levels: within the organelles of a cell, within groups of cells in the guise of differentiation, within groups of individuals in an animal society, and within our culturally determined human societies. The work closes with a charming personal history of sixty years of changes in the field of biology, including the transformation in the ways that research work is funded.

Originally published in 1996.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover 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.

The enormous recent success of molecular developmental biology has yielded a vast amount of new information on the details of development. So much so that we risk losing sight of the underlying principles that apply to all development. To cut through this thicket, John Tyler Bonner ponders a moment in evolution when development was at its most basic--the moment when signaling between cells began. Although multicellularity arose numerous times, most of those events happened many millions of years ago. Many of the details of development that we see today, even in simple organisms, accrued over a long evolutionary timeline, and the initial events are obscured. The relatively uncomplicated and easy-to-grow cellular slime molds offer a unique opportunity to analyze development at a primitive stage and perhaps gain insight into how early multicellular development might have started.

Through slime molds, Bonner seeks a picture of the first elements of communication between cells. He asks what we have learned by looking at their developmental biology, including recent advances in our molecular understanding of the process. He then asks what is the most elementary way that polarity and pattern formation can be achieved. To find the answer, he uses models, including mathematical ones, to generate insights into how cell-to-cell cooperation might have originated. Students and scholars in the blossoming field of the evolution of development, as well as evolutionary biologists generally, will be interested in what Bonner has to say about the origins of multicellular development--and thus of the astounding biological complexity we now observe--and how best to study it.

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