Evolutionary Theory: A Hierarchical Perspective

University of Chicago Press
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The natural world is infinitely complex and hierarchically structured, with smaller units forming the components of progressively larger systems: molecules make up cells, cells comprise tissues and organs that are, in turn, parts of individual organisms, which are united into populations and integrated into yet more encompassing ecosystems. In the face of such awe-inspiring complexity, there is a need for a comprehensive, non-reductionist evolutionary theory. Having emerged at the crossroads of paleobiology, genetics, and developmental biology, the hierarchical approach to evolution provides a unifying perspective on the natural world and offers an operational framework for scientists seeking to understand the way complex biological systems work and evolve.

Coedited by one of the founders of hierarchy theory and featuring a diverse and renowned group of contributors, this volume provides an integrated, comprehensive, cutting-edge introduction to the hierarchy theory of evolution. From sweeping historical reviews to philosophical pieces, theoretical essays, and strictly empirical chapters, it reveals hierarchy theory as a vibrant field of scientific enterprise that holds promise for unification across the life sciences and offers new venues of empirical and theoretical research. Stretching from molecules to the biosphere, hierarchy theory aims to provide an all-encompassing understanding of evolution and—with this first collection devoted entirely to the concept—will help make transparent the fundamental patterns that propel living systems.
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About the author

Niles Eldredge is an emeritus curator in the Division of Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History and one of the founders of the hierarchy theory of evolution. He is the author, most recently, of Eternal Ephemera: Adaptation and the Origin of Species from the Nineteenth Century through Punctuated Equilibria and Beyond. Telmo Pievani is professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Padua, where he holds the first Italian chair of the philosophy of biological science. Emanuele Serrelli is a fellow at the University of Milano-Bicocca and a researcher in the philosophy of science who collaborates with several universities around the world. Ilya Tëmkin is associate professor of biology at Northern Virginia Community College and a research associate at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. All four are members of the Hierarchy Group.
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Additional Information

University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Sep 23, 2016
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Science / General
Science / Life Sciences / Evolution
Science / Philosophy & Social Aspects
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Eligible for Family Library

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Most accounts of the natural evolution of wolves place it over a span of about 15,000 years, but within a decade, Belyaev and Trut’s fox breeding experiments had resulted in puppy-like foxes with floppy ears, piebald spots, and curly tails. Along with these physical changes came genetic and behavioral changes, as well. The foxes were bred using selection criteria for tameness, and with each generation, they became increasingly interested in human companionship. Trut has been there the whole time, and has been the lead scientist on this work since Belyaev’s death in 1985, and with Lee Dugatkin, biologist and science writer, she tells the story of the adventure, science, politics, and love behind it all. In How to Tame a Fox, Dugatkin and Trut take us inside this path-breaking experiment in the midst of the brutal winters of Siberia to reveal how scientific history is made and continues to be made today.

To date, fifty-six generations of foxes have been domesticated, and we continue to learn significant lessons from them about the genetic and behavioral evolution of domesticated animals. How to Tame a Fox offers an incredible tale of scientists at work, while also celebrating the deep attachments that have brought humans and animals together throughout time.
For most, the mere mention of lice forces an immediate hand to the head and recollection of childhood experiences with nits, medicated shampoos, and traumatic haircuts. But for a certain breed of biologist, lice make for fascinating scientific fodder, especially enlightening in the study of coevolution. In this book, three leading experts on host-parasite relationships demonstrate how the stunning coevolution that occurs between such species in microevolutionary, or ecological, time generates clear footprints in macroevolutionary, or historical, time. By integrating these scales, Coevolution of Life on Hosts offers a comprehensive understanding of the influence of coevolution on the diversity of all life.

Following an introduction to coevolutionary concepts, the authors combine experimental and comparative host-parasite approaches for testing coevolutionary hypotheses to explore the influence of ecological interactions and coadaptation on patterns of diversification and codiversification among interacting species. Ectoparasites—a diverse assemblage of organisms that ranges from herbivorous insects on plants, to monogenean flatworms on fish, and feather lice on birds—are powerful models for the study of coevolution because they are easy to observe, mark, and count. As lice on birds and mammals are permanent parasites that spend their entire lifecycles on the bodies of their hosts, they are ideally suited to generating a synthetic overview of coevolution—and, thereby, offer an exciting framework for integrating the concepts of coadaptation and codiversification.
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Appealing to anyone fascinated by the history of mechanics and technology as well as to hobbyists with home workshops, Why the Wheel Is Round offers a captivating exploration of our common technological heritage based on the simple concept of rotation. From our leg muscles powering the gears of a bicycle to our hands manipulating a mouse on a roller ball, it will be impossible to overlook the amazing feats of innovation behind our daily devices.
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In May 2012, at the Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti in Venice, an international panel of scientists and philosophers discussed Stephen J. Gould’s legacy, ten years after his death. This book presents a selection of those contributions, chosen for their interest and importance. A broad range of themes are covered: Gould’s contribution to evolutionary theory, including the concept of punctuated equilibria and the importance of his pluralism; the Gouldian view of genome and development; Gould’s legacy in anthropology; and, finally, the significance of his thought for the human sciences.

This book provides a fascinating appraisal of the cultural legacy of one of the world’s greatest popular writers in the life sciences. This is the first time that scientists including some of Gould’s personal friends and co-authors of papers of momentous importance such as Niles Eldredge have come together to strike a balanced view of Gould's intellectual heritage.

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