Acquiring Genomes: A Theory of the Origin of Species

Overview

How do new species evolve? Although Darwin identified inherited variation as the creative force in evolution, he never formally speculated where it comes from. His successors thought that new species arise from the gradual accumulation of random mutations of DNA. But despite its acceptance in every major textbook, there is no documented instance of it. Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan take a radically new approach to this question. They show that speciation events are not, in fact, rare or hard to observe. Genomes ...

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Acquiring Genomes: A Theory Of The Origin Of Species

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Overview

How do new species evolve? Although Darwin identified inherited variation as the creative force in evolution, he never formally speculated where it comes from. His successors thought that new species arise from the gradual accumulation of random mutations of DNA. But despite its acceptance in every major textbook, there is no documented instance of it. Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan take a radically new approach to this question. They show that speciation events are not, in fact, rare or hard to observe. Genomes are acquired by infection, by feeding, and by other ecological associations, and then inherited. Acquiring Genomes is the first work to integrate and analyze the overwhelming mass of evidence for the role of bacterial and other symbioses in the creation of plant and animal diversity. It provides the most powerful explanation of speciation yet given.

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Editorial Reviews

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In this provocative volume, the distinguished scientist Lynne Margulis and her coauthor, Dorian Sagan, elaborate on Margulis's original theories to present a radical departure in evolutionary thinking. Challenging the neo-Darwinian dogma that change in evolution is effected by the slow drip of natural selection acting on minute mutational variations, Margulis proposes that new species arise when existing species unite, fusing their genomes. The claim is supported by Margulis's pathbreaking research on symbiogenesis, which, she proved, was the origin of the types of complex cells found in human bodies. Perhaps most persuasively, Acquiring Genomes opens our eyes to the mysteries of the microcosm and demonstrates that evolution cannot be understood without it.
Nature
One of the most stimulating and provocative books that I have read for a long while.
From The Critics
Speedy, determined bacteria, and expert protist architects, caught between an tectonically active Earth and an energetic sun, engage in wars, alliances, bizarre sexual encounters, mergers, truces, and victories to create species. Random mutations and an omnipotent deity, say Margulis (geosciences, U. of Massachusetts-Amherst) and New York City science writer Sagan, played no part. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
Never one to shrink from controversy, biologist Margulis (Geosciences/Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst) and son Dorion (Biospheres, 1990) proclaim with predictable bombast that "symbiogenesis," the inheritance of acquired genomes, is the prime mover of evolution, by far outranking the role of adaptive mutations in creating new species. Given that science now accepts Margulis's earlier observations that chloroplasts and mitochondria, the energy-generating organelles in plant and animal cells, were originally independent bacteria but are now inherited in the cells of higher species, attention should be paid. Indeed, no less an evolutionary authority than Ernst Mayr provides a foreword commending the insights and observations that inform the text, albeit with reservations. The strength of Margulis's argument rests on studies of bacteria (single-celled organisms without nuclei) and protoctists, "unruly organisms" that have membrane-bound nuclei and include giant kelp, slime molds, amoebae, and Paramecium. For starters, bacteria have no species, she says; they change rapidly, freely exchange genes, and demonstrate a metabolic diversity that shames the mere photosynthesizing or oxygen-based metabolisms of plants and animals. Bacteria were the only life forms on the planet until two billion years ago, when they formed integrated teams to make the first nucleated cells-an event, the authors say, that began the speciation process. From here on, readers are treated to technical examples of genomic teamwork involving obscure microbes studied by a cast of unknown German, Russian, and American observers. We learn as well of other integrated partnerships that fall short of symbiogenesis, such asgrass-eating cows and wood-eating termites whose diets depend on enzymes supplied by gut-living bacterial symbionts. Overall, there is a wealth of absorbing and exciting evidence presented to give credence (to a point) to Margulis's theory, including some aspects of Earth-as-Gaia. But, as Mayr indicates, there is no evidence for acquired genomes in the evolution of birds, for example, nor should "acquiring" genomes be confused with Lamarckian inheritance. An exhilarating exposition of provocative if extreme ideas.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465043927
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 5/29/2003
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 996,246
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.14 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Meet the Author

Lynn Margulis, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, has been a member of the National Academy of Sciences since 1983. She is best known for her pathbreaking work on the bacterial origins of cell organelles and for her collaboration with James Lovelock on Gaia theory. Her previous books include Symbiosis in Cell Evolution; Five Kingdoms (with K. V. Schwartz); and (with Dorion Sagan) Origins of Sex, Garden of Microbial Delights, What Is Life?, What Is Sex?, and Slanted Truths: Essays on Gaia, Symbiosis and Evolution. Lynn Margulis, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a recipient of the 1999 Presidential Medal of Science, is Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Geosciences, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Dorion Sagan is the author of Biospheres and the co-author of Up from Dragons: The Evolution of Human Intelligence. He lives in New York City.

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Table of Contents

Foreword
Preface
Pt. 1 The Evolutionary Imperative
1 Darwinism Not Neodarwinism 3
2 Darwin's Dilemma 25
3 Relative Individuality 51
4 The Natural Selector 67
5 Principles of Evolutionary Novelty 71
Pt. 2 The Microbe in Evolution
6 Species and Cells 81
7 History of the Heritable 89
Pt. 3 Planetary Legacy
8 Gaian Planet 123
9 Eukaryosis in an Anoxic World 139
Pt. 4 Consortia
10 Seaworthy Alliances 165
11 Plant Proclivities 185
12 Chromosome Dance: The Fission Theory 191
13 Darwin Revisited: Species in the Evolutionary Dialogue 201
Glossary 207
References 219
Acknowledgments 225
Index 229
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