Lamarck's Signature: How Retrogenes Are Changing Darwin's Natural Selection Paradigm / Edition 1

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This controversial book challenges the accepted theories on the genetic mechanism of evolution. The story these three biologists have to tell may very well upset the whole field of biology.The traditional view of evolution—which grew out of the work of Gregor Mendel and Charles Darwin and is strongly supported by present-day scientists like Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould—assumes we are at the mercy of our genes, which we inherit largely unchanged from our parents, except for rare random mutations which accumulated and lead to change over evolutionary time. Those genes are coded in the chromosomes of the sperm and egg cells of the parents, and so only changes to those two types of cell have any chance of being passed down to the parents'’ offspring. Any changes, accidents, or surgery to the rest of the parent’s bodies are not transmitted to the newborn.The theory of inheritance of acquired characteristics—if you build up your muscles your kids will be born with a propensity toward great strength—on the other hand, favored by Jean Lamarck in the nineteenth-century, was brought down by nineteenth-century science. But now, as this challenging and thrilling book shows, it looks as though, at least for certain structures in the body’s immune system, Lamarck may have been right after all.Based on their own ground-breaking work over the past two decades, as well as that of other molecular biologists, Steele, Lindley, and Blanden argue that for one adaptive body system there is strong molecular genetic evidence that aspects of acquired immunities developed by parents in their own lifetime can be passed on to their offspring. Certain to stimulate lively debate, Lamarck’s Signature gives new life and scientific credibility to the Lamarckian heresy—the notion of the inheritance of acquired characteristics.

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Editorial Reviews

Steele (biology, U. of Wollongong, Australia) and company show molecular genetic evidence of acquired immunities developed by parents in their lifetime, then passed on to offspring. Such evidence, the authors claim, breathes new life into the Lamarckian heresy<-->the inheritance of acquired characteristics. Topics include clonal selection, somatic mutation and soma-to-germline feedback. The book is geared toward an educated-to-professional readership. Includes a glossary. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780738201719
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 1/28/1999
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.35 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Meet the Author

Edward J. Steeleis associate professor of biological sciences at the University of Wollongong, New South WalesRobyn A. Lindleyis director of the Technology Innovation Research Centre at the University of Wollongong, AustraliaRobert V. Blandenis in the Division of Immunization and Cell Biology at the John Curtin School of Medical Research in Canberra, Australia

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Table of Contents

Tables and figures
1 The twin legacies of Lamarck and Darwin 1
2 In the beginning there was RNA 25
3 Why the immune system is so interesting 58
4 The idea of 'clonal selection' 95
5 Somatic mutation 125
6 Soma-to-germline feedback 163
7 Beyond the immune system? 187
Epilogue 208
Appendix 223
Glossary 227
Notes 244
Bibliography 262
Index 272
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