Randomness in Evolution

Princeton University Press
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John Tyler Bonner, one of our most distinguished and insightful biologists, here challenges a central tenet of evolutionary biology. In this concise, elegantly written book, he makes the bold and provocative claim that some biological diversity may be explained by something other than natural selection.

With his customary wit and accessible style, Bonner makes an argument for the underappreciated role that randomness--or chance--plays in evolution. Due to the tremendous and enduring influence of Darwin's natural selection, the importance of randomness has been to some extent overshadowed. Bonner shows how the effects of randomness differ for organisms of different sizes, and how the smaller an organism is, the more likely it is that morphological differences will be random and selection may not be involved to any degree. He traces the increase in size and complexity of organisms over geological time, and looks at the varying significance of randomness at different size levels, from microorganisms to large mammals. Bonner also discusses how sexual cycles vary depending on size and complexity, and how the trend away from randomness in higher forms has even been reversed in some social organisms.

Certain to provoke lively discussion, Randomness in Evolution is a book that may fundamentally change our understanding of evolution and the history of life.

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About the author

John Tyler Bonner is professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton University. His books include The Social Amoebae: The Biology of Cellular Slime Molds and Why Size Matters: From Bacteria to Blue Whales (both Princeton).
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Mar 21, 2013
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Pages
152
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ISBN
9781400846429
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Language
English
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Genres
Science / Life Sciences / Biological Diversity
Science / Life Sciences / Biology
Science / Life Sciences / Evolution
Science / Life Sciences / Genetics & Genomics
Science / Life Sciences / Zoology / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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John Tyler Bonner, one of our most distinguished and creative biologists, here offers a completely new perspective on the role of size in biology. In his hallmark friendly style, he explores the universal impact of being the right size. By examining stories ranging from Alice in Wonderland to Gulliver's Travels, he shows that humans have always been fascinated by things big and small. Why then does size always reside on the fringes of science and never on the center stage? Why do biologists and others ponder size only when studying something else--running speed, life span, or metabolism?

Why Size Matters, a pioneering book of big ideas in a compact size, gives size its due by presenting a profound yet lucid overview of what we know about its role in the living world. Bonner argues that size really does matter--that it is the supreme and universal determinant of what any organism can be and do. For example, because tiny creatures are subject primarily to forces of cohesion and larger beasts to gravity, a fly can easily walk up a wall, something we humans cannot even begin to imagine doing.

Bonner introduces us to size through the giants and dwarfs of human, animal, and plant history and then explores questions including the physics of size as it affects biology, the evolution of size over geological time, and the role of size in the function and longevity of living things.

As this elegantly written book shows, size affects life in its every aspect. It is a universal frame from which nothing escapes.

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.

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.

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