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The Theory of EvolutionPrinciples, Concepts, and Assumptions$
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Samuel M. Scheiner and David P. Mindell

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226671024

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226671338.001.0001

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The Tree of Life and the Episodic Evolutionary Synthesis

The Tree of Life and the Episodic Evolutionary Synthesis

Chapter:
(p.123) Seven The Tree of Life and the Episodic Evolutionary Synthesis
Source:
The Theory of Evolution
Author(s):

Maureen Kearney

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226671338.003.0007

The Tree of Life depicts phylogenetic relationships of species lineages. Together with theories of phylogeny and natural selection, it explains common ancestry, descent with modification, and change within lineages. It had a profound influence on comparative biology, which continues to grow as species relationships and the history of biodiversity’s organization are increasingly recognized as critical to hypothesis-testing. Recent major expansion of genomic data has contributed to resolving phylogenetic relationships. With new knowledge of genetic diversity and non-divergent genetic evolutionary processes, the Tree of Life has been challenged as an inaccurate portrayal of the history of life. The debate about its reality stems from different ways of seeing organisms. Should organismal lineages be conceptualized as equivalent to their genomes, or as complex historical and biological systems that retain identity in spite of genetic exchange and other changes? Do organisms have any emergent reality beyond the sum of their genomes? The debate exemplifies the incomplete integration between major subdisciplines of evolutionary biology. Resolution will require further cross-disciplinary research and synthesis across systematics, ecology, genetics, paleontology, and organismal biology. Theory on the nature of organisms, species, and phylogeny must also be re-examined to assess the validity of a universal theory of phylogeny.

Keywords:   phylogeny, natural selection, Tree of Life, species, systematics, genes, organisms, evolutionary lineages, evolutionary history

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