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Subject Area(s):  Origin and Evolution of Life

By Nicholas H. Barton, University of Edinburgh; Derek E.G. Briggs, Yale University; Jonathan A. Eisen, University of California, Davis; David B. Goldstein, Duke University Medical Center; Nipam H. Patel, University of California, Berkeley

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Aim and Scope of the Book
Chapter 3: Evidence for Evolution

© 2007 • 833 pp., color illus., glossary, index
Hardcover •
ISBN  978-087969684-9

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  •     Description    
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Evolution is a book on evolutionary biology that integrates molecular biology, genomics, and human genetics with traditional studies of evolutionary processes.
  • Recommended as a primary textbook for upper level undergraduate courses in evolution
  • Required reading for biologists seeking a clear, current, and comprehensive account of evolutionary theory and mechanisms
  • Written by experts in population genetics, bacterial genomics, paleontology, human genetics, and developmental biology
  • Integrates molecular and evolutionary biology in ways that reflect current directions in research
Contents and Coverage
This extensively illustrated, full-color book has four sections:
Introduction (Part I) gives an account of how the ideas underpinning evolutionary theory developed and a history of experiments and ideas in the development of molecular biology.
Origin and Diversification of Life (Part II) describes the history of life on earth from the origin of life to the evolution of humans, with emphasis on the major transitions in genetic organization and novel adaptations that have appeared. The diversity of life is emphasized. The chapters make extensive use of information from complete genome sequences and analysis of molecular mechanisms in development.
Evolutionary Processes (Part III) describes how the diversity of life is generated: How variation arises and how selection acts are considered in detail. Many examples used to illustrate these processes are drawn from molecular sources.
Human Evolution (Part IV) discusses human evolution and diversity. The benefits of molecular markers for our understanding of human evolution are highlighted and these findings integrated with paleontological evidence. Also discussed is the use of evolutionary methods to identify genetic differences that predispose people to specific diseases and affect their responses to treatment.
Online-only Chapters
Additional chapters, found on the Web only, deal with techniques and models used in studying evolutionary biology, emphasizing the contribution of molecular biology and genomics to phylogenetic reconstruction methods.
Resources for Instructors
The Evolution Web site ( is an invaluable supplement to the textbook, a resource for teachers that will contain downloadable figures (for PowerPoint or overhead display) and chapter problems.
Request exam copies and other information
Visit the Evolution Web site now for more information about this new book. Request a detailed Table of Contents, Sample Chapters, Exam Copies, and Updates about Evolution.


Aim and Scope of the Book

1 The History of Evolutionary Biology: Evolution and Genetics
2 The Origin of Molecular Biology
3 Evidence for Evolution

4 The Origin of Life
5 The Last Universal Common Ancestor and the Tree of Life
6 Diversification of Bacteria and Archaea. I: Phylogeny and Biology
7 Diversification of Bacteria and Archaea. II: Genetics and Genomics
8 The Origin and Diversification of Eukaryotes
9 Multicellularity and Development
10 Diversification of Plants and Animals
11 Evolution of Developmental Programs

12 Generation of Variation by Mutation and Recombination
13 Variation in DNA and Proteins
14 Variation in Genetically Complex Traits
15 Random Genetic Drift
16 Population Structure
17 Selection on Variation
18 The Interaction between Selection and Other Forces
19 Measuring Selection
20 Phenotypic Evolution
21 Conflict and Cooperation
22 Species and Speciation
23 Evolution of Genetic Systems
24 Evolution of Novelty

25 Human Evolutionary History
26 Current Issues in Human Evolution

Figure Credits

27 Phylogenetic Reconstruction
28 Models of Evolution



“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, up–to–date summary of human evolution. The discussion of the Out–of–Africa 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 evo–devo considerations are again brought to bear in these chapters.”
      —Francisco J. Ayala, University of California, Irvine (Nature Genetics)

review:  “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)

review:  “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)

review:  “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)

review:  “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)

review:  “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 Dobzhansky’s 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

review:  “I have always trusted and respected Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and I really like the modern relevance of the text and the seamless inclusion of molecular biology throughout the text.”
      —Prof. Kari Loomis, Curry College