At 833 pages, Evolution by Barton et al. is a large book, and it is copiously and helpfully illustrated with photos, figures and line drawings, mostly in color. The lion’s share consists of Part II, The Origin and Diversification of Life, and Part III, Evolutionary Processes. The three chapters of Part I introduce the history of evolutionary biology, including molecular biology, and the evidence for evolution. The final two chapters, in Part IV, provide an excellent, uptodate summary of human evolution. The discussion of the OutofAfrica and multiregional hypotheses of the origin of modern humans is nuanced rather than dogmatic. A section on Genomics and Humanness is brief but incisive. The final chapter on Current Issues in Human Evolution is exemplary and can be profitably read by medical geneticists seeking to establish associations between genes and diseases.
The expertise of Barton et al. in population and evolutionary genetics is eminently displayed in Part III, which makes up somewhat more than half of Evolution. All the bases are covered, and well covered at that: mutation and variation, population structure, random drift and gene flow, selection, social evolution, speciation, and much more...The last two chapters of Part III, Evolution of Genetic Systems and Evolution of Novelty, are priceless. In length, depth and excitement, these two chapters go far beyond what is typically covered in evolution textbooks. The increasingly relevant topic of the evolution of evolvability is helpfully included, and evodevo considerations are again brought to bear in these chapters.
Francisco J. Ayala, University of California, Irvine (Nature Genetics)
This new [textbook in evolutionary biology] by Barton and colleagues is among the best. The production quality is superb in layout, composition, typesetting, colour palette, illustrations and gorgeous half-tones; and the writing is excellent, as one might expect from such a stellar cast of experts in population genetics, palaeontology, human genetics, bacterial genomics and developmental biology (respectively).
Daniel Hartl, Harvard University (Nature)
The book has many strengths. The prose is crisp and explanations are rigorous but clear. The authors do not hesitate to discuss complex ideas or to provide appropriate caveats about the certainty of our knowledge. The Figures are useful and abundant...The expertise of the authors in quantitative, population, and developmental genetics is obvious; explanations are often less formal than in other texts, but at the same time are more sophisticated and more intuitive. The chapters on diversity include a detailed but engaging introduction to the genetics and genomics of bacterial and archaeal diversity, the origins of multicellularity, and the evolution of novelty inferred from both fossil data and from developmental biology. Although I had assured myself that I would not read the text word-for-word, I found myself deeply immersed in many chapters and read them from beginning to end. The material was not new (for me), but the descriptions and explanations seemed fresher and more compelling than in other current evolution texts. The explicit focus on questions at the molecular level determines the use of examples throughout the text, but these examples come from basic biology, not biomedical science. This book will be particularly attractive to molecular biologists who want to learn the details of evolutionary pattern and process. It may also be the book of choice for evolutionary biology graduate students with interests in population genetics, evo-devo, and molecular evolution.
Richard G. Harrison, Cornell University, Ithaca (Evolution)
For a comprehensive modern view of evolution, I could do no better than Evolution by Barton, Briggs, Eisen, Goldstein and Patel...The book aims to integrate molecular and evolutionary biology into a coherent evolutionary perspective of life on Earth, and it achieves this ambitious aim.
Michael Majerusa, University of Cambridge, UK (Trends in Ecology and Evolution)
Overall, I find this the best undergraduate textbook on modern evolutionary biology currently available because it achieves an excellent integration of classical approaches to the study of evolution with the techniques of modern molecular genetics that have transformed it, namely the use of genetic sequences, genetic markers, and genetic manipulation. The writing is consistently clear, the figures and their captions mesh very well and are pedagogically effective, and the topics covered include essentially every area of evolutionary biology being advanced by molecular genetic techniques...
This volume will surely be useful in providing background information for the discussion of many individual topics in graduate or advanced undergraduate seminars in evolutionary biology.
William F. Zimmerman, Amherst College (The Quarterly Review of Biology)
By integrating molecular biology and evolutionary biology, the authors exploit a relatively unfilled niche for evolution texts. Smaller works exist in this area, but they cannot compare with this monumental effort to convey the current state of a burgeoning field. Thankfully, the authors devote ample attention to the pillars of evolutionary biology while making evolutionary biology more interesting to molecularly minded students, thereby spreading Dobzhanskys message that nothing makes sense except in the light of evolution.
Overall, Evolution is well-written, with a nice progression in many chapters from anecdotal points through more didactic renderings of the general principles....The figures are generally quite clear, and illustrate many to most of the major points that need visual aids for understanding.
This is an entertaining textbook that is well-timed to take advantage of major trends in the genomics era. Readers who are established biologists will find much to learn from disciplines they do not normally follow, while students will find the approach to evolutionary biology includes many of the modern tools they might not find in other texts on the subject. This book can also be warmly recommended to medical school faculty and clinical investigators seeking an up-to-date look at the most modern chapter in the modern synthesis of evolutionary biology.
As humanity acquires more scientific knowledge, there has been a natural trend towards increasing specialization among professional scientists, and yet it feels as though the past decade has been marked by a re-emphasis on the utility of interdisciplinary approaches to biological research. With this in mind, I highly recommend Evolution for biologists of all stripes, as virtually everyone will learn something from this surprisingly appealing textbook.
Oliver Rando, The FASEB Journal