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How Life Began: Evolution's Three Genesesby Alexandre Meinesz
Synopses & Reviews
The origin of life is a hotly debated topic. The Christian Bible states that God created the heavens and the Earth, all in about seven days roughly six thousand years ago. This episode in Genesis departs markedly from scientific theories developed over the last two centuries which hold that life appeared on Earth about 3.5 billion years ago in the form of bacteria, followed by unicellular organisms half a millennia later. It is this version of genesis that Alexandre Meinesz explores in this engaging tale of life's origins and evolution.
How Life Began elucidates three origins, or geneses, of life—bacteria, nucleated cells, and multicellular organisms—and shows how evolution has sculpted life to its current biodiversity through four main events—mutation, recombination, natural selection, and geologic cataclysm. As an ecologist who specializes in algae, the first organisms to colonize Earth, Meinesz brings a refreshingly novel voice to the history of biodiversity and emphasizes here the role of unions in organizing life. For example, the ingestion of some bacteria by other bacteria led to mitochondria that characterize animal and plant cells, and the chloroplasts of plant cells.
As Meinesz charmingly recounts, lifes grandeur is a result of an evolutionary tendency toward sociality and solidarity. He suggests that it is our cohesion and collaboration that allows us to solve the environmental problems arising in the decades and centuries to come. Rooted in the science of evolution but enlivened with many illustrations from other disciplines and the arts, How Life Began intertwines the rise of bacteria and multicellular life with Vermeers portrait of Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, the story of Genesis and Noah, Meineszs sons early experiences with Legos, and his own encounters with other scientists. All of this brings a very human and humanistic tone to Meineszs charismatic narrative of the three origins of life.
The origin of cells remains one of the most fundamental problems in biology, one that over the past two decades has spawned a large body of research and debate. With In Search of Cell History, Franklin M. Harold offers a comprehensive, impartial take on that research and the controversies that keep the field in turmoil.
Written in accessible language and complemented by a glossary for easy reference, this book investigates the full scope of cellular history. Assuming only a basic knowledge of cell biology, Harold examines such pivotal subjects as the relationship between cells and genes; the central role of bioenergetics in the origin of life; the status of the universal tree of life with its three stems and viral outliers; and the controversies surrounding the last universal common ancestor. He also delves deeply into the evolution of cellular organization, the origin of complex cells, and the incorporation of symbiotic organelles, and considers the fossil evidence for the earliest life on earth. In Search of Cell History shows us just how far we have come in understanding cell evolutionand#151;and the evolution of life in generaland#151;and how far we still have to go.
About the Author
Alexandre Meinesz is professor at the University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis and the author of Killer Algae, also published by the University of Chicago Press. Daniel Simberloff is the Nancy Hunger Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Tennessee and the translator of Killer Algae as well as The Art of Being a Parasite by Claude Combes, also published by the University of Chicago Press.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. Henris Cave
Chapter 2. On the Origin of Life on Earth
Chapter 3. Papa, Whats a Bacterium?
Chapter 4. The Vampire Slug of the Killer Alga
Chapter 5. Vermeer and Van Leeuwenhoek
Chapter 6. The Densimeter
Chapter 7. The Lego Game
Chapter 8. Candide, Jurassic Park, and Noah
Chapter 9. The End of the Evolutionary String
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Science and Mathematics » Biology » Evolution
Science and Mathematics » Biology » Origin of Life