Which texts are good for beginners to understand evolution on the genetic scope?

Which texts are good for beginners to understand evolution on the genetic scope?

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Are there good texts to study the evolution, how it works, and how mutations and changes lead to evolution of the organism ?

And how does the information increase through the long time using mutations and other mechanisms?

Can you recommend specific texts?

Books on my shelf right now (I'm an evolutionary genetics grad student)…

Entry level:

Evolution - Mark Ridley (not Matt Ridley)

A primer of ecological genetics - Connor & Hartl


Elements of evolutionary genetics - Charlesworth & Charlesworth


Principles of Population genetics - Hartl & Clark

Introduction to quantitative genetics - Falconer & Mackay

Further basic/popular-science books include R Dawkins' Selfish Gene/The Extended Phenotype/The Greatest Show on Earth and of course The Origin of Species by Darwin

Adding to previous answers. For basic textbooks I've been happy with (earlier editions of):

  • Evolution, Futuyma
  • Genetics: From Genes to Genomes, Hartwell et al.

EDIT: I should also mention the free pdf book Theoretical Evolutionary Genetics by Joe Felsenstein, with latest update from 2013. He uses it for a course in population gentics. So far, I have only browsed it myself. It is fairly math-heavy, but I thought that it could be of general interest.

50 Best Genetics Research Topics For Academic Papers

The study of genetics takes place across different levels of the education system in academic facilities all around the world. It is an academic discipline that seeks to explain the mechanism of heredity and genes in living organisms. First discovered back in the 1850s, the study of genetics has come a pretty long way, and it plays such an immense role in our everyday lives. Therefore, when you are assigned a genetics research paper, you should pick a topic that is not only interesting to you but one that you understand well.

From Trends in Ecology and Evolution: &ldquoFor a comprehensive modern view of evolution, I could do no better than Evolution by Barton, Briggs, Eisen, Goldstein and Patel.&rdquo More.

From The Quarterly Review of Biology: &ldquoThe best undergraduate textbook on modern evolutionary biology currently available. excellent integration of classical approaches to the study of evolution with the techniques of modern molecular genetics that have transformed it.&rdquo More.

From Nature: &ldquoAs a young man I attended an evening party at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. Max Delbrück approached me and asked what I was interested in.&rdquo More.

From Nature Genetics: &ldquoThere is now a consensus that the twenty-first century will be the century of biology, just as the twentieth century was the century of physics.&rdquo More.

&ldquoAbsolutely massive book. VERY modern, takes a molecular, genomics approach, but also has all the classical stuff that we also teach in this course. Full of examples, illustrations, fossils, earth history, and history of evolutionary thought. Really well put together. We loved it. If you have a molecular evolution bent, or want to learn about the subject in depth, then this is the book for you. It is about the most complete encyclopaedia of evolution, molecular evolution, evolution of development, and population genetics available, and is written by leading researchers in the field.&rdquo
&mdashJames Mallet, University College London

&ldquoThe scope of Barton et al.&rsquos new Evolution manuscript is magnificent. This is by far the best textbook on the subject yet and is much like another wonderful textbook, The Molecular Biology of the Cell.

Well-written and the level of sophistication is pretty equivalent across chapters despite having multiple authors. Figures are, in general, excellent. In its coverage of Evolutionary Processes (Section III), the analytical and conceptual tools of the field are presented in early chapters (genetic drift, population structure, quantitative genetics) and integrated to understand more complex problems in later chapters (i.e., the interaction between selection and other forces).&rdquo

&mdashAndrew Martin, University of Colorado

On the Origin of Species

By Charles Darwin

Your first choice, perhaps unsurprisingly, is Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Specifically, you’ve recommended the “annotated” version – a facsimile of the first edition – which is considered the best edition for general readers. Tell me why you chose it, when you first read it and why it inspired you.

The reason why I chose The Origin is because of all the books that have ever been written on science that are accessible to the layperson, this is the most important. It’s the one book you have to have read if you want to be considered an educated person. An educated person is someone who knows at least a little bit about the major disciplines in human endeavour. And in biology, this is what you need to know – not only historically but also contemporaneously, because Darwin was right, and still is right, about so many things.

I first read The Origin as an undergraduate. I’ve read it every year or two since then, so I must have read it 20 times. Each time I read it I get something out of it. I think it was Freud who said that, historically, there have been two great revolutions in human thought spurred by science over history. The first was the [Copernican] discovery that the earth wasn’t the centre of the universe. The second was the discovery that humans are just animals who evolved, like all other animals. And that was from Darwin.

To read The Origin properly, you must put yourself in the position of a Victorian reader – who is religious, who thinks humans have been specially created – and see how your worldview is turned inside out by these 500-odd pages of prose. You actually participate, when you read this book, in the revolution in humanity’s worldview, in its self-image, that took place in the latter part of the 19th century. The Origin came out 150 years ago, and it’s still readable, it’s still accessible.

Isn’t it quite hard to get through?

It is written in Victorian prose. But if you can read George Eliot or Jane Austen, I don’t think you’ll have much trouble with it. The difficulty comes with trying to unpack what he says about science in some places. His chapters on hybridism are pretty dire. Sometimes he gets deeply confused himself. He wasn’t right about everything, and that’s why I recommend the annotated version.

Yes, you mentioned that in the annotated edition there are margin notes that explain the hard bits.

There’s also another book that explains it in more detail. It’s called An Interpretative Guide to the Origin of Species by David Reznick, with an introduction by Michael Ruse. They’re trying to re-explain The Origin in modern prose. If you have trouble with The Origin, you might want to consult that. But I think the annotated version I recommend might be sufficient.

Do all biology students read the original Darwin?

No, they don’t. You’d be surprised how many evolutionary biologists haven’t read The Origin. Professionals! None of the biology students at the University of Chicago read it. I tried to make my undergraduates read it in class and they balked. They don’t want to read 500 pages of Victorian prose. So then I give them an abridged version, which is not really satisfactory. They don’t even like that. That’s what led me to write my own book. A lot of the evidence in the book is taken from Darwin, but it’s written in a way that makes it more accessible.

What I liked about reading Darwin was this strong sense of him as a working naturalist. He came up with this world-changing theory, but he did so by looking at pigeons. It’s the constant and very detailed observation of animals and plants.

He was definitely an inductive reasoner, building up the big picture from details. One thing people don’t realise about The Origin is that the rhetoric is magnificent. It’s built on anecdotes and details, all of which are carefully designed to one single end, and it gradually dawns on the reader that Darwin is right. What he’s doing is assailing you from all sides with evidence from different areas of biology – from animal breeding (to show that natural selection can work because artificial selection does), from geography, from embryology. He didn’t have much of a fossil record, so he doesn’t talk a lot about fossils, but he does talk about vestigial organs. And all that comes together to point to one ineluctable conclusion – that evolution happens and probably by natural selection.

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All the details are carefully chosen from a much larger series of details that Darwin never published. The Origin was supposed to be an abstract for a much larger book, a bit of which still survives and is called The Red Book. He wasn’t going to write The Origin as it stands, but he was forced to because he had competition. Alfred Russel Wallace had come up with the same idea. So Darwin wrote it quickly – otherwise it would have been even longer.

It’s the evidence that convinced people more than anything else. You can’t just say, “This is my theory about how things work” and have it persuade people without supporting data. That’s why Darwin was such a success and Alfred Russel Wallace wasn’t. Wallace published a short note in 1858, and that was it. Darwin supported his theory with all these details. It’s just magisterial. He spent years writing to naturalists, to breeders, to obscure people in different corners of the world and collecting all this stuff. Then he built it into an edifice which changed the world. We’re still feeling the repercussions of it today, particularly in America where people absolutely refuse to believe it, simply because it goes against their religious beliefs.

Darwin has this nice line in the conclusion, about how “no one now objects” to gravity but when Isaac Newton first proved its existence, Leibnitz said it was an “occult” force and subversive of religion. I guess it takes a long time for people to accept these things.

That was part of his rhetorical strategy as well. If you read the famous last line of The Origin, he goes back to the idea of planets cycling around each other and around the sun according to the law of gravity, and compares that to his law of natural selection causing evolution.

But for some reason it has taken people longer to accept evolution than gravity.

Evolution was not rejected because there is anything wrong with it. It was rejected because it went against people’s religious beliefs. There is no other way to understand it. If you look across countries of the world, you see a dramatic negative correlation between the degree of religiosity and the acceptance of the theory of evolution. The more religious the country is, the less willing they are to accept Darwin. Countries like Sweden, Denmark, France and Norway, with high degrees of Darwin acceptance – up to 80-90% – have low degrees of religiosity, 10-20% (defined as “Do you pray every day?”) That suggests to me that people are conditioned to reject evolution because of their preconceived religious beliefs. If we didn’t have religion in this world, there would be no controversy. Evolutionary biology would be something as broadly accepted as the germ theory of disease.

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Concluding remarks

We think that the new ideas about phenotypic plasticity's role in evolution, as well as the re-evaluation of concepts such as GA and phenotypic accommodation, represent not a threat to the Modern Synthesis, but rather a welcome expansion of its current horizon. Moreover, these ideas are generally compatible with current quantitative genetic models of phenotypic evolution(because the latter are largely invariant with respect to specific mechanisms), and offer the potential for a fruitful empirical research program that need not be prematurely quashed due to superficial critiques.

Interactions Between Genetic and Cultural Modes of Inheritance and Evolution

At the broadest level, culture extends biology insofar as some culturally transmitted behaviors are evolutionarily consequential, i.e., they have implications for practitioners’ survival, reproduction, and ultimate inclusive fitness (as opposed to the reproductive success of the cultural items themselves, discussed earlier). Some cultural variants that appear relatively frivolous, such as staring at one’s reflection in water in gorillas (23) or applying an autoerotic tool in orangutans (22), may have less evolutionary significance, but varied forms of tool use by orangutans and chimpanzees appear to be highly functional in gaining access to rich resources such as insect prey, nut kernels, and honey. Indeed, some of these behaviors appear to be vital for chimpanzees to exploit niches that would otherwise exclude them (87). Other culturally transmitted behaviors play functional roles in grooming, social interactions, and sexual courtship.

Another sense in which culturally transmitted behaviors may have been evolutionary important concerns their effects on organic evolution. Cetacean researchers have proposed that cultural differentiation among whales has led to genetic differences (7, 105). For example, killer whales display eco-types that specialize in hunting alternative prey such as seals or fish using very different techniques, and different clans exhibit other behavioral differences in their songs and migratory/resident patterns, despite often being sympatric (6, 7, 105, 106). Such effects are suggested to have driven other morphological and genetic differentiation, ultimately leading to incipient speciation, because it becomes difficult for a member of one culture to enter another and successfully manage the different foraging and courtship requirements of that culture. This causal pathway would be an instance of “behavioral drive” (107 ⇓ –109), in which plasticity in behavior allows a species to exploit or create a new niche, in this case a culturally dependent one (e.g., hunting fish versus seal, a cultural drive). This niche in turn may create selection pressures acting on organic evolution, with effects such as the evolution of more robust jaws in the seal-hunters (6). Parallel hypotheses have been developed in the case of birdsong dialects driving speciation (110, 111).

Dramatically different specialisms such as seen in killer whales are not apparent among great apes, although the extent to which similar processes are at work, e.g., in contrasts between nut-cracking communities of chimpanzees and the nearest neighbors that do not crack, would repay attention. However, one principal effect of complex culture on organic evolution in apes has been proposed concerning encephalization and the cognitive sophistication it can provide: the cultural intelligence hypothesis.

What is Biology in Nursing School?

Biology courses teach nursing students about life. The study of life is the focus of these courses. These courses help nurses to classify organisms into categories. The magnificent thing about biology is that it covers content from various other sub-disciplines rather than focus on organisms from just one category. This is important to nurses as they try to understand how illnesses affect the human body.

The foundation of biology consists of understanding gene theory, the concept that tiny particles known as DNA determine the make up of an organism that passes from parent to offspring cell theory, the belief that life comes from units know as cells homeostasis, the belief that organisms contain complex processes that protect it from the effects of the environment and evolution, the belief that life is not random but rather it evolves from natural selection and random mutations.

Nursing student use biology to help them view all aspects of a patient’s life to determine treatment options based on their entire biological make up. Genetic factors play an important role in the biological make up of a patient so nurses need to have a firm grasp of this concept to provide effective patient care.

The 10 Best Biology Books Of 2017

Whether you are giving gifts to others or to yourself this holiday season, this list of the best popular science books of 2017 in biology -- evolution and ecology combined with zoology and a plethora of other disciplines -- is a great place to start reading and gifting

Best Biology Books of 2017. Composite by Bob O'Hara.

Truly, 2017 is The Big Year for wonderful popular science books about biology. It’s taken me one agonizing week to narrow down my choices for the best biology books of 2017 into a stack that can be purchased and carried home and read. This list could easily have been three times longer, and I still would not have exhausted my choices for this year’s most faboo biology books. Despite the fact that you can hardly make the wrong choice when purchasing a 2017 book that focuses on some aspect of biology, here’s the list of books that I think are the best.

How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog): Visionary Scientists and a Siberian Tale of Jump-Started Evolution by Lee Alan Dugatkin and Lyudmila Trut (University of Chicago Press, 2017 Amazon US / Amazon UK)

How fast can evolutionary changes occur? One useful way to examine this question is by studying the domestication process itself. In this amazing book, we learn about the famous experiment to domesticate silver foxes that has been ongoing in Russia for more than 60 years. The authors interweave the turbulent times of Soviet-era anti-evolution science, Lysenkoism, with more recent Russian history and biography, especially of the late Dimitri Belyaev, who started this experiment. There’s plenty of fascinating science here, too: how selectively breeding for tameness unintentionally changed the appearances of these foxes how hormone function changes as the result of domestication, and how this, in turn, influences and changes behavior and what genetic mapping reveals about where genetic changes occurred on the silver fox’s 17 pairs of chromosomes -- a more straightforward process compared to studying the domestication process in dogs, which have more than twice that number of chromosomes. In addition to the science that underlies this long-term experiment, the book includes charming anecdotes about individual foxes. This beautifully-written book reads like a novel -- a hard-to-put-down novel. It includes lots of lovely color photographs of foxes and their puppies, which are really danged cute. This book will appeal to dog (and fox) lovers, but also to anyone who wants a clearer understanding of evolution and genetics and the domestication process, of how politics affect science, how science itself has evolved with the appearance of new, more powerful technologies, and of course, how two dedicated and courageous individuals can change the world. If you read only two biology books this year, this is one of those two that you simply must read.

The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin’s Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World -- And Us by Richard O. Prum (Doubleday Books, 2017 Amazon US / Amazon UK)

This timely and provocative book examines animal behavior, sexual behavior, and feminism, and thus, for those reasons alone, I could write pages about how fascinating it is. Ornithologist and author, Richard Prum, begins by documenting the scientific evidence that supports Darwin’s overlooked theory of sexual selection, which results from individual females choosing their mates. We meet a wide variety of bird species with impressive courtship displays and fabulous ornaments: moonwalking Red-capped Manakins who are the Michael Jacksons of the bird world Club-winged Manakins who sing with their wings and the Peacock, which is famous for its extravagant train of iridescent feathers, just to name a few. After rigorously establishing the scientific framework that documents how female birds have created the flamboyant males of their species by selectively choosing who to mate with, Professor Prum then investigates how sexual selection applies to primates. Although these chapters are more speculative, this is where the ideas become even more compelling. (Well, for those who don’t appreciate birds.) Particularly interesting are the discussions about why human males have such large penises compared to our closest relatives: chimpanzees and gorillas. This meticulously researched and gripping book will appeal to everyone, and I do mean everyone: the evolution of duck penises and human penises combined with cultural evolution and the power of female choice will change how you think about why human society and religion are the way they are. There are more than enough ideas and information in this carefully argued book to spark many interesting discussions with your friends and drinking pals. If you read only two biology books this year, this should be one of your two essential reads.

The Evolution of Beauty was chosen as a “Best Book of the Year” by the New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, and Smithsonian.

Monarchs and Milkweed: A Migrating Butterfly, a Poisonous Plant, and Their Remarkable Story of Coevolution by Anurag Agrawal (Princeton University Press, 2017 Amazon US / Amazon UK)

This readable book provides a fascinating review of historical and current research into co-evolution by detailing the special relationship between America’s iconic migratory butterfly, the Monarch, and its host plant, the toxic Milkweed. In this book, the author, ecologist and evolutionary biologist, Anurag Agrawal, traces the life of a Monarch butterfly from an egg to a milkweed-chomping caterpillar, to a chrysalis undergoing that developmental alchemy known as metamorphosis, and finally, transformation into the migratory adult. The author recounts the classic evolutionary battle between the Milkweed, which evolved toxins to prevent their leaves being eaten, and the Monarch butterfly, which developed the ability to capture and concentrate Milkweed toxins in their bodies for protection from their own predators (usually birds). Professor Agrawal discusses Monarch butterfly conservation efforts and includes his own ideas about the reasons for the recent decline of Monarch butterfly populations. Written in clear and accessible prose, this lavishly illustrated and authoritative book is targeted to the nonspecialist and will be especially enjoyed by fans of butterflies and other insects. One caveat: don’t get the Kindle version.

Improbable Destinies: How Predictable is Evolution? by Jonathan Losos (Allen Lane, 2017 Amazon US / Amazon UK)

One long-standing debate in science is whether evolution follows a predictable course. On one side of the argument stood the late, great, Stephen Jay Gould, who claimed that if “the tape of life” on Earth was re-run, it would look very different today. Small differences in circumstances can lead to large differences in evolutionary trajectories. On the other side of this argument is Simon Conway Morris amongst others, who point out that convergent evolution belies Gould’s assertion. Convergent evolution is where distinct species evolve similar traits to meet similar challenges in similar circumstances. Examples include wings and eyes. In this compelling book, evolutionary ecologist, Jonathan Losos, shares his many years of research into anole lizards on Caribbean islands, and other studies into guppies, foxes, field mice and a plethora of other species, which demonstrate just how rapid and predictable evolution can be. Written as a personal narrative of discovery, this charming book is as engaging and interesting as I imagine it would be to chat with the author over a few beers. I was especially fascinated by Losos’s discussions of the evolutionary predictions made, and how scientists test them, and determining how particular examples of convergent evolution came about. Professor Losos’s insights into how natural selection and evolution affect the evolution of disease-causing viruses and bacteria, and securing our food supply are especially timely and important. This book is a lucid and captivating exploration of evolution and of the scientific ideas and experiments that reveal how it works.

Other Minds: The Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligent Life by Peter Godfrey-Smith (William Collins, 2017 Amazon US / Amazon UK)

Where does consciousness come from? How do other animals experience consciousness? How do we distinguish between mind and action? In this fascinating book, we explore the origin and evolution of sentience, consciousness and intelligence in the animal kingdom, by highlighting the development of cognition and brains in cephalopods (mostly octopus and cuttlefish) and comparing that to what we know of mammals and birds. The book follows evolution of the brain from the beginning from mere clumps of cells that began living together, then developing the capacity to sense, act and signal, and then becoming increasingly more complex. The author, Peter Godfrey-Smith, a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the City University of New York Graduate Center and Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Sydney, is also an avid diver who tells vivid stories of his underwater encounters with his fascinating subjects. Cephalopods’ unique neural structures allow them to experience the world very differently from how birds and mammals and, as Godfrey-Smith notes, studying cephalopods is probably as close as we will come to examining an alien mind. Throughout the book, Godfrey-Smith poses intriguing philosophical and scientific questions about the the nature of these animals’ awareness and describes some of his many delightful and eye-opening encounters with octopus and cuttlefish whilst diving. He also discusses how captive octopuses are no less clever than their wild counterparts, and reportedly perform all sorts of amazing intellectual feats: they can identify individual keepers sneak into neighboring tanks for food turn off lights with well-aimed jets of water and of course, escape. This engaging book provides a captivating glimpse into the philosophy and process underlying scientific inquiry and will change how you think about how other animals see and experience the world.

Other Minds was chosen as a Top Ten Science Book by Publishers Weekly and was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, and was shortlisted by the Royal Society Insight Investment Popular Science Books of 2017.

The Lost Species: Great Expeditions in the Collections of Natural History Museums by Christopher Kemp (University of Chicago Press, 2017 Amazon US / Amazon UK)

I love reading about expeditions to exotic, faraway places, in search of species that are new to science. But not all species require such expensive and dangerous quests: every year, at least a few new species are discovered in the storage cabinets of natural history museums. In this book, molecular biologist and writer, Christopher Kemp, shares the stories of some of these rare specimens lurking in museum drawers or jars for decades, or even longer than a century, before an observant scientist realizes that she is looking at something new. In this book, we meet mislabeled landsnails king crabs collected in 1906 an unknown rove beetle collected by Darwin himself and the adorable, fluffy olinguito. We also learn that, tragically, some species have been overlooked for so long that they have disappeared before we even knew they were there. As Kemp showcases these inspiring discoveries, you’ll find yourself wondering what undiscovered treasures can be found in your local natural history museum. Clearly there is plenty of unknown biodiversity: currently, only 2 million species have been named out of the estimated 10 million that are thought to be out there (some credible estimates go as high as 30 million unnamed species), but I was amazed to learn that as many as half of all museum specimens are misidentified. Yeow! Clearly, there’s a lot of taxonomic and systematic work to be done. This engaging book is a compelling argument for the overall value of natural history museums, and for the importance of studying these collections.

Emerald Labyrinth: A Scientist's Adventures in the Jungles of the Congo by Eli Greenbaum (University Press of New England, 2017 Amazon US / Amazon UK)

A typical day at work is rather predictable for most of us, but not so for herpetologist and evolutionary geneticist, Eli Greenbaum. In his dedication to discover and study snakes, lizards, and frogs, this daring scientist goes into the field in one of the most dangerous and remote places on Earth, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). He braves venom-spitting cobras, wild mountain gorillas and elephants, and teenaged rebels packing AK-47s, multiple infections with malaria and typhoid fever, and poisoning by a swarm of angry ants. Meticulously researched, fast-paced and beautifully illustrated with lots of photographs, this book seamlessly blends scientific discovery, memoir and travelogue with the historical context of the DRC’s almost legendary corruption. You may not be able to put down this inspirational page-turner until you’ve finished it.

Resurrecting the Shark: A Scientific Obsession and the Mavericks Who Solved the Mystery of a 270-Million-Year-Old Fossil by Susan Ewing (Pegasus Books, 2017 Amazon US / Amazon UK)

I still remember the astonishment I felt when I first saw I saw part of a fossil jaw of a Helicoprion, the “buzz saw shark”, at the Smithsonian. This large predator was the size of a modern great white shark, and it chomped its way through the world’s seas for roughly ten million years, until it went extinct just before the great mass extinction at the end of the Permian period. How the heck does that spiralled jaw, armed with hundreds of protruding razor sharp teeth, fit into a functional jaw? I wondered. I wasn’t the first one intrigued by this fossil: the Helicoprion lower jaw, with its distinctive whorl, has mystified amateurs and experts alike for more than a century and spawned a plethora of questions. How many spirals did each animal have? Were these spirals located in its mouth as either jaws or teeth, or were they on its tail or fins? If this whorl was in its mouth, was it located on the upper or lower jaw, in the front or back of the mouth? Was this whorl one tooth with multiple protruding stabby bits, or did it comprise many stabby teeth embedded in a jaw? How much force did a bite have? So many questions! This absorbing book by journalist and writer, Susan Ewing, tells the exciting story of how two passionate paleo-shark enthusiasts -- one, an artist in Alaska, and the other, an Iraq war veteran -- met and joined forces to use the scientific process and cutting-edge technologies to pursue their passion to finally understand the enigmatic Helicoprion. The book is also well-illustrated with 24 pages of photographs and paintings of the fossils, reconstructions, and of the scientists. Ewing also shares lots of shark lore and painstakingly documents how paleontology worked in the past and how it has been revolutionized by state-of-the-art computer scanning and modeling technologies, combined with interdisciplinary approaches. This wonderful book will appeal to those who enjoy reading about the history of science, who love paleontology, and sharks, and especially to those who enjoy reading a good mystery.

Darwin's Unfinished Symphony: How Culture Made the Human Mind by Kevin N. Laland (Princeton University Press, 2017 Amazon US / Amazon UK)

How did the human mind -- and the uniquely human ability to devise and transmit culture -- evolve from its roots in animal behavior? Darwin’s Unfinished Symphony presents an interesting new idea for human cognitive evolution. This compelling and readable book discusses how human culture is not just the result of evolution -- it is also the key driving force behind that process in humans. Behavioural and evolutionary biologist, Kevin Laland shows how learned and socially transmitted activities of our ancestors shaped our intellectual abilities through accelerating cycles of evolutionary feedback. Drawing on his own research, Professor Laland explains how animals imitate, innovate, and have remarkable traditions of their own. But, as Professor Laland argues, the characteristics that make humans unique -- our intelligence, language, teaching, and cooperation -- differ from other animals’ because they are not adaptive responses to predators, disease, or other external conditions. Rather, they result from our culture, and thus, humans are creatures of our own making. Although Professor Laland's ideas may not ultimately be correct, these thought-provoking ideas are firmly based in painstaking fieldwork and key experiments that led to this new understanding of how culture transformed human evolution, and thus, are a good place to start further investigations. This engaging book will appeal to people who wish to understand human nature and civilization, whether philosophers, scientists and those with a curious mind.

Bring Back the King: The New Science of De-extinction by Helen Pilcher (Bloomsbury Sigma, 2017 Amazon US / Amazon UK)

If you could bring back to life a person or animal, what would you choose? In this amusing and educational book, science writer and comedian, Helen Pilcher shares her own choices from eras past, including the King of the Dinosaurs, Tyrannosaurus rex, and the King of Rock 'n' Roll, Elvis Presley. From dinosaurs to dodos and Neanderthals, this witty book reveals how the rapidly growing field of DNA science is being used to help resurrect individual animals and even entire species. Pilcher describes current initiatives and future plans to restore deceased species, and assesses the ramifications of how these creatures might fare today. Could a pet dinosaur be trained to roll over? Would Neanderthals enjoy opera? Could a returning dodo seek vengeance upon humanity? She asks. Pilcher also asks my favorite question when faced with de-extinction: “just because we can, does it mean we should?” and explores issues relating to species that would needed for cloning efforts and the effects introducing new species would have on current habitats. Blending the very latest de-extinction technology with cloning, and hard-core popular science with levity, this charming book will generate a lot of thoughtful discussion and a chuckle or two, and will be especially enjoyed by younger readers and non-specialists.

Menstruation, the shedding of the superficial endometrium with associated bleeding, occurs in some species of placental mammals when progesterone levels fall at the end of an infertile reproductive cycle 1 . In non-menstruating mammals, tissue breakdown and bleeding do not occur when progesterone levels fall. In the higher primates, some species of bats, and the elephant shrew, however, the regression of the corpus luteum and the consequent fall in progesterone triggers proteolysis of the extracellular matrix, cell death, and bleeding. Why do some mammals, in particular primates, menstruate while most do not? What is the adaptive value, if any, of menstruation? Many hypotheses have been put forth, including one arguing that menstruation evolved to protect against sperm-born pathogens and one claiming that menstruation is energetically less costly than maintaining the endometrium in an active state (Table 1 for a review see 2 ). These ideas are flawed for a variety of reasons and thus fail to explain why menstruation evolved (Table 1 2 , 3 ). The most frequent problem is lack of consideration of the ancestral state and variation among placental mammals. In this paper we present our hypothesis on the mechanisms and evolutionary significance of menstruation.

First, we will argue that it is not menstruation per se that is the adaptive trait, i.e. directly confers an adaptive advantage (first proposed by 3 ). In fact, it can be argued that menstruation as such is costly to the female in terms of incapacitation and loss of blood. Rather, it is more plausible that menstruation occurs as an inevitable consequence of spontaneous decidualization (SD), the cyclical differentiation of the endometrial stroma in response to maternal hormones. Thus, to understand why menstruation evolved, it is necessary to understand the forces involved in SD. Here, we argue that SD evolved in some groups of placental mammals because of maternal–fetal conflict, and that it evolved by genetic assimilation of the decidualization reaction, which occurs in non-menstruating mammals in response to blastocyst implantation (rather than circulating progesterone). We propose three models of how SD may have evolved by genetic assimilation and how it can be tested experimentally.


We are grateful to Annals of Botany Editors Don Levin, Pat Heslop-Harrison and Mike Jackson, and Managing Editor David Frost, for their extraordinary efforts in editing this Special Issue. We would also like to thank each of the authors for contributing stimulating papers that strengthen the links between ecological and evolutionary approaches to the study of plant–pollinator interactions. Finally, we acknowledge with appreciation nearly 40 reviewers who provided exceptionally insightful comments on the manuscripts.