The Dynamic Genome: A Darwinian Approach

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Antonio Fontdevila was born in Barcelona, Spain. After completing a postdoc at the University of California, Davis, he returned to Spain where he was a Professor of Genetics at the University of Santiago de Compostela and then at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona , where he remains as an active Emeritus Professor. During this time he was Chairman of his department , supervised 16 PhD theses, was Visiting Professor at more than 20 universities and invited speaker more than 35 times in 10 different countries.

He has written peer reviewed papers, edited one book, and co-authored two text books, as well as serving on several journal editorial boards, steering committees, and society councils. His research interests include the measurement of fitness in natural populations; ecological and evolutionary genetics of colonisation; molecular evolution and population genetics of transposable elements; and the evolution of reproductive isolation.

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Our ever-increasing knowledge of whole genome sequences is unveiling a variety of structures and mechanisms that impinge on current evolutionary theory. The origin of species, the evolution of form, and the evolutionary impact of transposable elements are just a few of the many processes that have been revolutionised by ongoing genome studies. These novelties, among others, are examined in this book in relation to their general significance for evolution, emphasising their human relevance. The predominance of non-coding DNA in the human genome, the long-term adaptive role of so called "junk DNA" in the evolution of new functions, and the key evolutionary differences that define our humanity are just some of the controversial issues that this book examines in the context of Darwinian evolution.

In other words, this genome potential provides new possibilities and also constraints for evolution, but the realization of this potential is driven by natural selection. The author presents a compelling forum of ideas and long-standing debates on whether the genome is principally evolving adaptively or neutrally; gradually or through large leaps; and whether species boundaries are distinct or porous.


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Help Centre. My Wishlist Sign In Join. Be the first to write a review. Add to Wishlist. Ships in 7 to 10 business days. Link Either by signing into your account or linking your membership details before your order is placed. Description Table of Contents Product Details Click on the cover image above to read some pages of this book! Industry Reviews The author presents a compelling forum of ideas and long-standing debates on whether the genome is principally evolving adaptively or neutrally; gradually or through large leaps; and whether species boundaries are distinct or porous.

Charles Darwin and Evolution

It also helps a lot that the paper is very engaging, impossible to put aside before finishing. Authors' response: We appreciate the constructive comments and would like to emphasize that the primary goal of this paper is indeed not a reappraisal of the role of Jean-Bapteste Lamarck in the history of evolutionary biology.

To engage in such an undertaking, one needs to be a professional historian of science, which we certainly are not, and of course, to be able to read Lamarck's oeuvre in the original which, most unfortunately, we cannot do at least, not without a long-term, sustained effort. Rather, this paper focuses on the increasing realization of the more direct and active involvement of environmental factors in evolutionarily relevant genomic change than perceived within the Modern Synthesis of Evolutionary Biology.

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This emerging new aspect of evolution necessarily brings to mind Lamarck but we do not propound a revival of the actual ideas of Philosophie Zoologique. Koonin and Wolf have written an interesting and provocative study on the Lamarckian aspects of some non-random genetic changes. In commenting on this paper I will try to not run into semantic issues about what is really Lamarckian.

Some newly discovered systems like the CAS system can, also in my view, clearly be regarded as Lamarckian, and I applaud the authors for carefully making their case. I do not think we have data to substantiate that. One could of course argue that species living in the same environment share the same needs, like adaptation to high temperatures, and thus the transfer of Reverse Gyrase from Archaea to Bacteria could be regarded as Lamarckian.


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  7. I doubt however that of the total number of genes that get transferred a reasonable fraction will have adaptive value. I would therefore not agree that "any instance of HGT when the acquired gene provides an advantage to the recipient, in terms of reproduction in the given environment that is specifically conducive to the transfer of the gene in question , seems to meet the Lamarckian criteria", because there will be many non-adaptive HGTs, just as there are many non-adaptive mutations.

    Authors' response: we do not claim that all or most of HGT is adaptive or Lamarckian but only that there is a substantial Lamarckian component to it. The quoted sentence says nothing about the frequency of adaptive HGT, so we maintain that it is valid. Further, one has to clearly distinguish between the occurrence of HGT and its fixation in the population. Of course, the huge majority of occurring HGT is non-adaptive but that does not necessarily apply to the fixed transfers.

    Similarly I do not think that there is evidence to support that the stress induced changes in tumors are adaptive in themselves, even though some of them could indeed be selected, and I do not know of any evidence to support that "the induced mutations lead to adaptation to the stress factor s that triggered mutagenesis".

    Authors' response: it is important to emphasize that, unlike the case of CRISPR and the adaptive component of HGT, which we view as bona fide Lamarckian, we denote stress-induced mutagenesis including that occurring in tumors, a quasi-Lamarckian phenomenon Table 1. So we do not posit that induced mutations are adaptive "in themselves" but rather that some of them are, often, only a small fraction.

    However, all these mutations are directly induced by environmental stress factors, and those that are adaptive, even if a small minority, are most consequential for evolution. Finally: at least I do not realize that "much of this variation is adaptive".

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    But this study did get me to think about it, and as such I think this manuscript provides valuable new insights and thoughts about the possible continuum between Darwinian and Lamarckian evolution. Darwin C: On the Origin of Species. Darwin C: Origin of Species. Packard AS: Lamarck, the founder of evolution: His life and work.

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    Darwinian evolution in the light of genomics

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