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In Search of Cell HistoryThe Evolution of Life's Building Blocks$
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Franklin M. Harold

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780226174143

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226174310.001.0001

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The Crooked Paths of Cell Evolution

The Crooked Paths of Cell Evolution

Cell Evolution Is Special

(p.190) Chapter Eleven The Crooked Paths of Cell Evolution
In Search of Cell History

Franklin M. Harold

University of Chicago Press

The common understanding of evolution, formalized in the Modern Synthesis, is flawed by the neglect of the microbial world, together with most of biological history and diversity. The torrent of genomic information, and the assimilation of microbes, have forced a drastic expansion of the evolutionary framework. Genes still hold center stage, but no longer rule alone; lateral gene transfer has eroded the conventional tree of life, whose lower reaches have melded into a web; not all evolutionary change is adaptive, much is neutral; the inheritance of acquired characteristics, by lateral gene transfer and by symbiosis, plays a major role in life's history; evolution is not always gradual, but may be punctuated by abrupt leaps. Those evolvable eukaryotes are a prime example, considered in some detail. It's definitely not the world Darwin knew; and yet, so long as the history of life can be construed as the interplay of heredity, variation and natural selection, it remains Darwin's world. That premise presupposes the existence of cells, or something like them. Of evolution before cells and genes, we know almost nothing.

Keywords:   modern synthesis, cell evolution is different, expanded evolutionary framework, evolvable eukaryotes, symbiosis, evolution before genes

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