About the Book
Evolution is designed to serve as the primary text for undergraduate courses in evolution. It differs from currently available alternatives in containing more molecular biology than is traditionally the case. But this is not at the expense of traditional evolutionary theory. Indeed, a glance at the Table of Contents and the authors' interests reveals the range of material covered in this book. The authors are world-renowned in population genetics, bacterial genomics, paleontology, human genetics, and developmental biology. The integration of molecular biology and evolutionary biology reflects the current direction of much research among evolutionary scientists.
Evolution is divided into four Parts.
Part I is a history of evolutionary biology and of molecular biology. Most evolution textbooks include a discussion of how the ideas underpinning evolutionary theory arose. The first striking difference in Evolution is that the history of experiments and ideas in the development of molecular biology is also discussed. This approach reflects the more prominent role that findings from molecular biology have in the current text.
Part II describes the history of life on Earth. This is a narrative account from the origin of life up to the evolution of humans (although evolution of humans is dealt with in greater detail in Part IV, as we will see). The emphasis is on the major transitions in genetic organization and the novel adaptations that have evolved. The diversity of life is also highlighted. The impact of molecular biology is clear in this part of the book: Chapters herein make extensive use of information gained in recent years from the complete sequences of the genomes of several organisms and also from the rather detailed knowledge we now have on the molecular mechanisms of developmental biology.
Part III covers the evolutionary processes that account for the series of events discussed in Part II. Thus, how variation arises and how selection acts on it are considered in detail. The bulk of the material in this part of the book is typically covered in most evolution textbooks, though in the current text, examples used to illustrate the theory are more often chosen from molecular sources than is traditionally the case.
Part IV is dedicated to human evolution and diversity. Once again, the huge influence of molecular biology on this field is reflected in the extent to which DNA markers, rather than bones and skulls, are emphasized (though the bones are not ignored).
Additional chapters, found on the Web only, deal with the methods and models used in studying evolutionary biology. Again, the role of molecular biology and genomics is paramount in the phylogenetic reconstruction methods that are described.