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Variation: A Central Concept in Biology

Provides an overview of current thinking on variation in evolutionary biology, functional morphology, and evolutionary developmental biology
Written by a team of leading scholars specializing on the study of variation
Reviews of statistical analysis of variation by leading authorities
Key chapters focus on the role of the study of phenotypic variation for evolutionary, developmental, and post-genomic biology

By: Benedikt Hallgrímsson (Author), Brian Hall (Author)

568 pages, illustrations, tables

Academic Press

Hardback | Aug 2005 | #153138 | ISBN: 0120887770
Availability: Usually dispatched within 2-3 weeks Details
NHBS Price: £61.99 $76/€69 approx

About this book

Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection was based on the observation that there is variation between individuals within the same species. This fundamental observation is a central concept in evolutionary biology. However, variation is only rarely treated directly. It has remained peripheral to the study of mechanisms of evolutionary change. The explosion of knowledge in genetics, developmental biology, and the ongoing synthesis of evolutionary and developmental biology has made it possible for us to study the factors that limit, enhance, or structure variation at the level of an animals' physical appearance and behavior. Knowledge of the significance of variability is crucial to this emerging synthesis. Variation: A Central Concept in Biology situates the role of variability within this broad framework, bringing variation back to the center of the evolutionary stage.

"[...] Variation: A Central Concept in Biology, is sure to spark the interest of nearly all ecologists and evolutionary biologists [...] How does this variation arise? How do new variants evolve? What contrains variation? The answers are incomplete. However, the chapters of this book provide a glimpse at our current understanding of phenotypic variation."
– James A. Fordyce, University of Tenessee, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, in Ecology

"Variation is certainly a topic of central interest in evolutionary biology and this new book offers an unusually inclusive array of perspectives on the topic. I especially enjoyed the breadth of coverage. Novel features are found that one might not have expected in a book of this nature, such as structural, functional and developmental variation, as contrasted with the expected emphases on genetic variation, canalization and phenotypic plasticity, and their relation to life history evolution. Palmers stimulating chapter on antisymmetry is particularly noteworthy for its originality. Another unusual treatment is Badyaevs focus on the role of stress in evolution, which is examined from a different perspective by Hoffmann and McKenzie. On the whole this is an assemblage of excellent chapters by many of the central figures in the fields covered and will be a welcome addition to my library."
– David B. Wake, University of California, Berkeley, U.S.A.

"This comprehensive, diverse and stimulating volume is a must-read for anyone interested in development and evolution. Never has the critical subject of variation been so well treated in terms of how to analyze variation, how developmental processes induce and constrain its properties, and the complex relationships between genotypic, environmental and phenotypic variation. This is a tour-de-force treatment of a critical subject."
– Daniel E. Lieberman, Harvard University, U.S.A.

"Where do genetic and phenotypic diversity come from and how are they are maintained? Do the same processes link the differences within species to the stable differences between species? These are the big questions about the diversity of life on Earth and Hallgrimsson and Halls book provides the latest views from leading scientists of diversity and form."
– Mark Pagel, University of Reading, England

"Variation is the basic material of evolution. At last we have a book that takes a modern approach to variation in all its formspopulational, developmental, genetic, morphologicaland links it to the processes that generate the variation itself. This is not a collection of bland reviews, but a vital compendium of novel perspectives that begin to meld the new data of evo-devo with the accepted body of Modern Synthesis work. A must for any evolutionists library."
– Kevin Padian, University of California, Berkeley, U.S.A. Listed in New Titles in Bioscience (April 2006)

" [...] chapters are authoritative and well written, and graduate students and scientists will find much here that is thought-provoking."
– Carl D. Schlichting, Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Connecticut, in Bioscience



Chapter 1. Variation and Variability: Central Concepts in Biology
Chapter 2. Variation from Darwin to the Modern Synthesis
Chapter 3. The Statistics of Variation
Chapter 4. Landmark Morphometrics and the Analysis of Variation
Chapter 5. Variation in Ontogeny
Chapter 6. Constraints on Variation from Genotype through Phenotype to Fitness
Chapter 7. Developmental Origins of Variation
Chapter 8. Canalization, Cryptic Variation and Developmental Buffering: A Critical Examination and Analytical Perspective
Chapter 9. Mutation and Phenotypic Variation: Where is the connection Capacitators, Stressors, Phenotypic Variability and Evolutionary Change
Chapter 10. Within Individual Variation: Developmental Noise versus Developmental Stability
Chapter 11. Developmental Constraints, Modules and Evolvability
Chapter 12. Developmental Regulation of Variability
Chapter 13. Role of Stress in Evolution: From Individual Adaptability to Evolutionary Adaptation
Chapter 14. Environmentally Contingent Variation: Phenotypic Plasticity and Norms of Reaction
Chapter 15. Variation and Life History Evolution
Chapter 16. Antisymmetry
Chapter 17. Variation in Structure and its Relationship to Function: Correlation, Explanation and Extrapolation
Chapter 18. A Universal Generative Tendency Toward Increased Organismal Complexity
Chapter 19. Variation and Versatility in Macroevolution
Chapter 20. Variation and Developmental Biology: Prospects for the Future
Chapter 21. Phenogenetics: Genotypes, Phenotypes, and Variation
Chapter 22. The Study of Phenotypic Variability


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