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Cells, Colonies, and Clones: Individuality in the Volvocine Algae

Cells, Colonies, and Clones: Individuality in the Volvocine Algae

Chapter:
(p.63) 2 Cells, Colonies, and Clones: Individuality in the Volvocine Algae
Source:
Biological Individuality
Author(s):
Matthew D. Herron
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226446592.003.0003

The hierarchy of life results from a series of evolutionary transitions in individuality. In each case new, higher-level units emerged from coalitions of the lower-level units, resulting in entirely new kinds of individuals with new, emergent properties. A common feature of such transitions is the division of labor between reproductive and somatic functions, as in the castes of eusocial animals and differentiated cells in multicellular organisms. One of the best-studied transitions in individuality is the origin of differentiated multicellular organisms from unicellular ancestors in the volvocine green algae (Volvox and its close relatives). This chapter uses the volvocine algae as a case study to consider how evolutionary changes in development led to the emergence of a new kind of individual. Cells, colonies, and clones all have a legitimate claim to some degree of individuality, and those degrees vary across different concepts of individuality and different criteria relevant to specific concepts.

Keywords:   progress, complexity, individuality, major transitions, Volvox, Chlamydomonas, Pleodorina

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