Special Issue "Beyond the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis- what have we missed?"

A special issue of Biology (ISSN 2079-7737).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 March 2016)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. John S. Torday

Evolutionary Medicine Program, University of California- Los Angeles, Torrance, CA 90502-2006, USA
Website | E-Mail
Interests: developmental physiology; evolutionary biology; evolutionary developmental biology

Special Issue Information

The Modern Synthesis, merging population genetics and Darwinian evolutionary gradualism, was formulated in 1942. That was long before biologists learned about the Double Helix, the role of epigenetics in embryonic development, or the molecular bases for cell and developmental biology. All these developments are missing from neo-Darwinism. Even those who practice EvoDevo do not utilize cell biology to understand evolutionary mechanisms, defaulting to random mutation and natural selection. Much in evolutionary history can be understood by introducing knowledge of cell-cell signaling for pattern formation in the combined short-term ontogeny of the individual organism and the long-term phylogenetic history of the species. Modern molecular biology facilitates understanding how and why physiologic traits have evolved. Moreover, a more contemporary approach helps us understand the evolution of multicellular organisms from unicellular protists as a continuous arc, offering insight to the ‘singularity’ of life as the leitmotif of this Special Issue of Biology.

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • Modern Synthesis
  • neo-Darwinism
  • EvoDevo
  • Cell-Cell Signaling
  • Singularity
  • epigenetics

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle Quantifying Mosaic Development: Towards an Evo-Devo Postmodern Synthesis of the Evolution of Development via Differentiation Trees of Embryos
Biology 2016, 5(3), 33; doi:10.3390/biology5030033
Received: 3 April 2016 / Revised: 4 July 2016 / Accepted: 9 August 2016 / Published: 18 August 2016
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Abstract
Embryonic development proceeds through a series of differentiation events. The mosaic version of this process (binary cell divisions) can be analyzed by comparing early development of Ciona intestinalis and Caenorhabditis elegans. To do this, we reorganize lineage trees into differentiation trees using
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Embryonic development proceeds through a series of differentiation events. The mosaic version of this process (binary cell divisions) can be analyzed by comparing early development of Ciona intestinalis and Caenorhabditis elegans. To do this, we reorganize lineage trees into differentiation trees using the graph theory ordering of relative cell volume. Lineage and differentiation trees provide us with means to classify each cell using binary codes. Extracting data characterizing lineage tree position, cell volume, and nucleus position for each cell during early embryogenesis, we conduct several statistical analyses, both within and between taxa. We compare both cell volume distributions and cell volume across developmental time within and between single species and assess differences between lineage tree and differentiation tree orderings. This enhances our understanding of the differentiation events in a model of pure mosaic embryogenesis and its relationship to evolutionary conservation. We also contribute several new techniques for assessing both differences between lineage trees and differentiation trees, and differences between differentiation trees of different species. The results suggest that at the level of differentiation trees, there are broad similarities between distantly related mosaic embryos that might be essential to understanding evolutionary change and phylogeny reconstruction. Differentiation trees may therefore provide a basis for an Evo-Devo Postmodern Synthesis. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Beyond the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis- what have we missed?)
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Review

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Open AccessReview Nothing in Evolution Makes Sense Except in the Light of Genomics: Read–Write Genome Evolution as an Active Biological Process
Biology 2016, 5(2), 27; doi:10.3390/biology5020027
Received: 12 February 2016 / Revised: 20 May 2016 / Accepted: 2 June 2016 / Published: 8 June 2016
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Abstract
The 21st century genomics-based analysis of evolutionary variation reveals a number of novel features impossible to predict when Dobzhansky and other evolutionary biologists formulated the neo-Darwinian Modern Synthesis in the middle of the last century. These include three distinct realms of cell evolution;
[...] Read more.
The 21st century genomics-based analysis of evolutionary variation reveals a number of novel features impossible to predict when Dobzhansky and other evolutionary biologists formulated the neo-Darwinian Modern Synthesis in the middle of the last century. These include three distinct realms of cell evolution; symbiogenetic fusions forming eukaryotic cells with multiple genome compartments; horizontal organelle, virus and DNA transfers; functional organization of proteins as systems of interacting domains subject to rapid evolution by exon shuffling and exonization; distributed genome networks integrated by mobile repetitive regulatory signals; and regulation of multicellular development by non-coding lncRNAs containing repetitive sequence components. Rather than single gene traits, all phenotypes involve coordinated activity by multiple interacting cell molecules. Genomes contain abundant and functional repetitive components in addition to the unique coding sequences envisaged in the early days of molecular biology. Combinatorial coding, plus the biochemical abilities cells possess to rearrange DNA molecules, constitute a powerful toolbox for adaptive genome rewriting. That is, cells possess “Read–Write Genomes” they alter by numerous biochemical processes capable of rapidly restructuring cellular DNA molecules. Rather than viewing genome evolution as a series of accidental modifications, we can now study it as a complex biological process of active self-modification. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Beyond the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis- what have we missed?)
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Open AccessReview An Evolutionary Framework for Understanding the Origin of Eukaryotes
Biology 2016, 5(2), 18; doi:10.3390/biology5020018
Received: 28 February 2016 / Revised: 15 April 2016 / Accepted: 25 April 2016 / Published: 27 April 2016
Cited by 3 | PDF Full-text (1619 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Two major obstacles hinder the application of evolutionary theory to the origin of eukaryotes. The first is more apparent than real—the endosymbiosis that led to the mitochondrion is often described as “non-Darwinian” because it deviates from the incremental evolution championed by the modern
[...] Read more.
Two major obstacles hinder the application of evolutionary theory to the origin of eukaryotes. The first is more apparent than real—the endosymbiosis that led to the mitochondrion is often described as “non-Darwinian” because it deviates from the incremental evolution championed by the modern synthesis. Nevertheless, endosymbiosis can be accommodated by a multi-level generalization of evolutionary theory, which Darwin himself pioneered. The second obstacle is more serious—all of the major features of eukaryotes were likely present in the last eukaryotic common ancestor thus rendering comparative methods ineffective. In addition to a multi-level theory, the development of rigorous, sequence-based phylogenetic and comparative methods represents the greatest achievement of modern evolutionary theory. Nevertheless, the rapid evolution of major features in the eukaryotic stem group requires the consideration of an alternative framework. Such a framework, based on the contingent nature of these evolutionary events, is developed and illustrated with three examples: the putative intron proliferation leading to the nucleus and the cell cycle; conflict and cooperation in the origin of eukaryotic bioenergetics; and the inter-relationship between aerobic metabolism, sterol synthesis, membranes, and sex. The modern synthesis thus provides sufficient scope to develop an evolutionary framework to understand the origin of eukaryotes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Beyond the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis- what have we missed?)

Other

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Open AccessConcept Paper Phenotype as Agent for Epigenetic Inheritance
Biology 2016, 5(3), 30; doi:10.3390/biology5030030
Received: 8 April 2016 / Revised: 24 May 2016 / Accepted: 5 July 2016 / Published: 8 July 2016
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (207 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The conventional understanding of phenotype is as a derivative of descent with modification through Darwinian random mutation and natural selection. Recent research has revealed Lamarckian inheritance as a major transgenerational mechanism for environmental action on genomes whose extent is determined, in significant part,
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The conventional understanding of phenotype is as a derivative of descent with modification through Darwinian random mutation and natural selection. Recent research has revealed Lamarckian inheritance as a major transgenerational mechanism for environmental action on genomes whose extent is determined, in significant part, by germ line cells during meiosis and subsequent stages of embryological development. In consequence, the role of phenotype can productively be reconsidered. The possibility that phenotype is directed towards the effective acquisition of epigenetic marks in consistent reciprocation with the environment during the life cycle of an organism is explored. It is proposed that phenotype is an active agent in niche construction for the active acquisition of epigenetic marks as a dominant evolutionary mechanism rather than a consequence of Darwinian selection towards reproductive success. The reproductive phase of the life cycle can then be appraised as a robust framework in which epigenetic inheritance is entrained to affect growth and development in continued reciprocal responsiveness to environmental stresses. Furthermore, as first principles of physiology determine the limits of epigenetic inheritance, a coherent justification can thereby be provided for the obligate return of all multicellular eukaryotes to the unicellular state. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Beyond the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis- what have we missed?)
Open AccessCommentary Evolution of Microbial Quorum Sensing to Human Global Quorum Sensing: An Insight into How Gap Junctional Intercellular Communication Might Be Linked to the Global Metabolic Disease Crisis
Biology 2016, 5(2), 29; doi:10.3390/biology5020029
Received: 7 March 2016 / Revised: 25 May 2016 / Accepted: 3 June 2016 / Published: 15 June 2016
Cited by 3 | PDF Full-text (7910 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The first anaerobic organism extracted energy for survival and reproduction from its source of nutrients, with the genetic means to ensure protection of its individual genome but also its species survival. While it had a means to communicate with its community via simple
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The first anaerobic organism extracted energy for survival and reproduction from its source of nutrients, with the genetic means to ensure protection of its individual genome but also its species survival. While it had a means to communicate with its community via simple secreted molecules (“quorum sensing”), the eventual shift to an aerobic environment led to multi-cellular metazoan organisms, with evolutionary-selected genes to form extracellular matrices, stem cells, stem cell niches, and a family of gap junction or “connexin” genes. These germinal and somatic stem cells responded to extracellular signals that triggered intra-cellular signaling to regulate specific genes out of the total genome. These extra-cellular induced intra-cellular signals also modulated gap junctional intercellular communication (GJIC) in order to regulate the new cellular functions of symmetrical and asymmetrical cell division, cell differentiation, modes of cell death, and senescence. Within the hierarchical and cybernetic concepts, differentiated by neurons organized in the brain of the Homo sapiens, the conscious mind led to language, abstract ideas, technology, myth-making, scientific reasoning, and moral decision–making, i.e., the creation of culture. Over thousands of years, this has created the current collision between biological and cultural evolution, leading to the global “metabolic disease” crisis. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Beyond the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis- what have we missed?)
Open AccessConcept Paper Cryptic Genetic Variation in Evolutionary Developmental Genetics
Biology 2016, 5(2), 28; doi:10.3390/biology5020028
Received: 11 April 2016 / Revised: 1 June 2016 / Accepted: 6 June 2016 / Published: 13 June 2016
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Abstract
Evolutionary developmental genetics has traditionally been conducted by two groups: Molecular evolutionists who emphasize divergence between species or higher taxa, and quantitative geneticists who study variation within species. Neither approach really comes to grips with the complexities of evolutionary transitions, particularly in light
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Evolutionary developmental genetics has traditionally been conducted by two groups: Molecular evolutionists who emphasize divergence between species or higher taxa, and quantitative geneticists who study variation within species. Neither approach really comes to grips with the complexities of evolutionary transitions, particularly in light of the realization from genome-wide association studies that most complex traits fit an infinitesimal architecture, being influenced by thousands of loci. This paper discusses robustness, plasticity and lability, phenomena that we argue potentiate major evolutionary changes and provide a bridge between the conceptual treatments of macro- and micro-evolution. We offer cryptic genetic variation and conditional neutrality as mechanisms by which standing genetic variation can lead to developmental system drift and, sheltered within canalized processes, may facilitate developmental transitions and the evolution of novelty. Synthesis of the two dominant perspectives will require recognition that adaptation, divergence, drift and stability all depend on similar underlying quantitative genetic processes—processes that cannot be fully observed in continuously varying visible traits. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Beyond the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis- what have we missed?)
Open AccessEssay Epigenetic Inheritance and Its Role in Evolutionary Biology: Re-Evaluation and New Perspectives
Biology 2016, 5(2), 24; doi:10.3390/biology5020024
Received: 16 March 2016 / Revised: 26 April 2016 / Accepted: 11 May 2016 / Published: 25 May 2016
Cited by 4 | PDF Full-text (2600 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Epigenetics increasingly occupies a pivotal position in our understanding of inheritance, natural selection and, perhaps, even evolution. A survey of the PubMed database, however, reveals that the great majority (>93%) of epigenetic papers have an intra-, rather than an inter-generational focus, primarily on
[...] Read more.
Epigenetics increasingly occupies a pivotal position in our understanding of inheritance, natural selection and, perhaps, even evolution. A survey of the PubMed database, however, reveals that the great majority (>93%) of epigenetic papers have an intra-, rather than an inter-generational focus, primarily on mechanisms and disease. Approximately ~1% of epigenetic papers even mention the nexus of epigenetics, natural selection and evolution. Yet, when environments are dynamic (e.g., climate change effects), there may be an “epigenetic advantage” to phenotypic switching by epigenetic inheritance, rather than by gene mutation. An epigenetically-inherited trait can arise simultaneously in many individuals, as opposed to a single individual with a gene mutation. Moreover, a transient epigenetically-modified phenotype can be quickly “sunsetted”, with individuals reverting to the original phenotype. Thus, epigenetic phenotype switching is dynamic and temporary and can help bridge periods of environmental stress. Epigenetic inheritance likely contributes to evolution both directly and indirectly. While there is as yet incomplete evidence of direct permanent incorporation of a complex epigenetic phenotype into the genome, doubtlessly, the presence of epigenetic markers and the phenotypes they create (which may sort quite separately from the genotype within a population) will influence natural selection and, so, drive the collective genotype of a population. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Beyond the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis- what have we missed?)
Figures

Open AccessConcept Paper Cognition, Information Fields and Hologenomic Entanglement: Evolution in Light and Shadow
Biology 2016, 5(2), 21; doi:10.3390/biology5020021
Received: 18 February 2016 / Revised: 3 May 2016 / Accepted: 11 May 2016 / Published: 21 May 2016
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (361 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
As the prime unification of Darwinism and genetics, the Modern Synthesis continues to epitomize mainstay evolutionary theory. Many decades after its formulation, its anchor assumptions remain fixed: conflict between macro organic organisms and selection at that level represent the near totality of any
[...] Read more.
As the prime unification of Darwinism and genetics, the Modern Synthesis continues to epitomize mainstay evolutionary theory. Many decades after its formulation, its anchor assumptions remain fixed: conflict between macro organic organisms and selection at that level represent the near totality of any evolutionary narrative. However, intervening research has revealed a less easily appraised cellular and microbial focus for eukaryotic existence. It is now established that all multicellular eukaryotic organisms are holobionts representing complex collaborations between the co-aligned microbiome of each eukaryote and its innate cells into extensive mixed cellular ecologies. Each of these ecological constituents has demonstrated faculties consistent with basal cognition. Consequently, an alternative hologenomic entanglement model is proposed with cognition at its center and conceptualized as Pervasive Information Fields within a quantum framework. Evolutionary development can then be reconsidered as being continuously based upon communication between self-referential constituencies reiterated at every scope and scale. Immunological reactions support and reinforce self-recognition juxtaposed against external environmental stresses. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Beyond the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis- what have we missed?)
Open AccessCommentary The Cell as the First Niche Construction
Biology 2016, 5(2), 19; doi:10.3390/biology5020019
Received: 17 February 2016 / Revised: 14 April 2016 / Accepted: 18 April 2016 / Published: 28 April 2016
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (525 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Niche construction nominally describes how organisms can form their own environments, increasing their capacity to adapt to their surroundings. It is hypothesized that the formation of the first cell as ‘internal’ Niche Construction was the foundation for life, and that subsequent niche constructions
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Niche construction nominally describes how organisms can form their own environments, increasing their capacity to adapt to their surroundings. It is hypothesized that the formation of the first cell as ‘internal’ Niche Construction was the foundation for life, and that subsequent niche constructions were iterative exaptations of that event. The first instantation of niche construction has been faithfully adhered to by returning to the unicellular state, suggesting that the life cycle is zygote to zygote, not adult to adult as is commonly held. The consequent interactions between niche construction and epigenetic inheritance provide a highly robust, interactive, mechanistic way of thinking about evolution being determined by initial conditions rather than merely by chance mutation and selection. This novel perspective offers an opportunity to reappraise the processes involved in evolution mechanistically, allowing for scientifically testable hypotheses rather than relying on metaphors, dogma, teleology and tautology. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Beyond the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis- what have we missed?)
Open AccessCommentary The Emergence of Physiology and Form: Natural Selection Revisited
Biology 2016, 5(2), 15; doi:10.3390/biology5020015
Received: 17 February 2016 / Revised: 23 March 2016 / Accepted: 25 March 2016 / Published: 1 April 2016
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (552 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Natural Selection describes how species have evolved differentially, but it is descriptive, non-mechanistic. What mechanisms does Nature use to accomplish this feat? One known way in which ancient natural forces affect development, phylogeny and physiology is through gravitational effects that have evolved as
[...] Read more.
Natural Selection describes how species have evolved differentially, but it is descriptive, non-mechanistic. What mechanisms does Nature use to accomplish this feat? One known way in which ancient natural forces affect development, phylogeny and physiology is through gravitational effects that have evolved as mechanotransduction, seen in the lung, kidney and bone, linking as molecular homologies to skin and brain. Tracing the ontogenetic and phylogenetic changes that have facilitated mechanotransduction identifies specific homologous cell-types and functional molecular markers for lung homeostasis that reveal how and why complex physiologic traits have evolved from the unicellular to the multicellular state. Such data are reinforced by their reverse-evolutionary patterns in chronic degenerative diseases. The physiologic responses of model organisms like Dictyostelium and yeast to gravity provide deep comparative molecular phenotypic homologies, revealing mammalian Target of Rapamycin (mTOR) as the final common pathway for vertical integration of vertebrate physiologic evolution; mTOR integrates calcium/lipid epistatic balance as both the proximate and ultimate positive selection pressure for vertebrate physiologic evolution. The commonality of all vertebrate structure-function relationships can be reduced to calcium/lipid homeostatic regulation as the fractal unit of vertebrate physiology, demonstrating the primacy of the unicellular state as the fundament of physiologic evolution. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Beyond the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis- what have we missed?)

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