The Network of Life: A New View of Evolution

Princeton Univ. Jun. 2024. 280p. ISBN 9780691228778. $27.95. SCI
Many people were taught the fundamentals of the evolutionary tree of life: organisms, through mutation and adaptive survival, diverge to create new species, and genetic traits are passed from parents to offspring. But Mindell’s (senior researcher, Univ. of California’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology; author of The Evolving World: Evolution in Everyday Life and coeditor of The Theory of Evolution) book shows that this concept applies mainly to animals and doesn’t quite capture the full scope of how species acclimate, split, and even merge throughout all types of organisms. He carefully and clearly explains how updating the genetic-inheritance model will give people a clearer picture of the interconnectedness of life and the practical importance of this more inclusive perspective for understanding disease, antibiotic resistance, microbiomes found in the gut and on skin, ecological interdependence, and a bioengineered future. These species-to-species mechanisms of genetic evolution elucidate processes that take eons, such as bacteria that live inside other single-celled organisms and become an essential part of them; these processes also allow viruses to exchange genetic materials so quickly that it necessitates yearly reformulation of vaccines.
VERDICT A perspective-shifting reconceptualization of evolution for science enthusiasts who want to keep up with current biomedical and environmental scientific theories.
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