Description: This book is an edited volume comprised of seven chapters, each by a different set of contributors.
Purpose: The purpose is to examine the evolutionary origins of multicellular animals (Metazoa) using new evidence from nucleotide sequences and proteins. In particular, the question of a single or multiple origins of Metazoa is addressed. This an interesting and worthy question, as a number of evolutionary advances were necessarily associated with this major transition to multicellularity. The various chapters represent diverse approaches to addressing the issues, although this book does not represent a comprehensive coverage of the issue and there is little effort to integrate the results of studies reported in the various chapters.
Audience: This book will have a relatively limited audience of practicing scientists and graduate students in the fields of molecular evolution, comparative invertebrate biology, and those working on the origins and early diversification of life. The editor does not identify his target audience, but the topic and coverage are fairly narrow and specialized. The editor is an authority in the field and the contributors appear to be credible authorities.
Features: Some of the chapters are divided in many short sections, making for very choppy text. There are an adequate number of black-and-white schematic illustrations, phylogenetic trees, and some sequence alignment figures. There is one colored figure of homeobox gene alignments that is not particularly useful. Each chapter has its own list of references that are quite current and a short index for the entire book is also included.
Assessment: This book contains useful and interesting material that I do not believe has been collected elsewhere.. It is very current in its field. The audience, however, will be limited to specialists in the fields mentioned above. Libraries that primarily service biomedical researchers or undergraduates should probably not buy this book. Libraries serving basic biology departments with graduate students and researchers in evolutionary biology, invertebrate biology, and molecular biology should buy it.