Description: The methods developed and used in genome projects are now being applied to other fields, including evolution. The fossil record from ancient events such as the origin of metazoans (animals that pass through embryonic stages of development) is scarce and its interpretation has been controversial. This edited volume is a summary of the molecular evidence gathered by cloning and sequencing genes from a wide range of metazoans and the application of this information to the construction of a phylogeny for metazoan origins. The conclusions reached by analyzing and comparing these nucleotide and amino acid sequences are discussed, and the origins of multicellularity are explored as well.
Purpose: The purpose is to provide a summary of the molecular evidence for the true origins and physiology of metazoa.
Audience: Specialists and beginners as well as others in the field will be interested in this book.
Features: Eight articles are presented, each by a leading authority in the field. As an introduction to the problem, the first chapter is a summary of the origins of metazoans based on the fossil record. In a subsequent chapter the evolution of metazoans based on phenotype is covered. Other contributors discuss the use of nucleotide and amino acid sequencing to determine the phylogenetic status and origins of lower metazoans, and the use of sponges as a model system to study cell differentiation and the origins of multicellular organisms. In one outstanding chapter, Ohno synthesizes the evidence for the genomic events that separated the vertebrates from the invertebrates. This is an important contribution to the field. Without exception, the articles are up-to-date, and most include references from the year of publication. In a few articles, the references are not as inclusive as they might be, but this is a minor problem.
Assessment: This book will be of interest to those already working in the field, and is an accessible introduction to the use of molecular techniques to explore evolutionary events. It will also be of use to those seeking an overview of the molecular evidence for metazoan origins. Earlier volumes in this series, Progress in Molecular and Subcellular Biology, have also considered the molecular evidence for the origin and classification of metazoans, providing a rich source of information and discussion about this important evolutionary topic.