136 pages, 21 figs, 1 map
The reader is introduced to some of the most intriguing problems of evolutionary biology. An intuitive notion of biological progress based on the superiority of human beings over other creatures is not satisfactory, and this book attempts to analyze the problem of progress from a genetic point of view. It is proposed that the capacity of a working structure performing the vital functions of an organism is linked to the amount of genetic information underlying its development. An evolving species can be subjected to a long-term environmental deterioration when changes in a given working structure can become limiting for its survival. Selection favouring species with increased mobility of the limiting structure, that is of the potential rate of changing its capacity, is termed `mobilizing selection`. A principle of maximum adaptability is formulated implying that in a given adaptive zone an equilibrium should eventually be established among genetic complexities - and, therefore, capacities - of different working structures in accordance with how often they are limiting. This process can be considered as accumulation of knowledge by a phyletic lineage about its adaptive zone, and can be regarded as evolutionary progress. Thus, the main attributes of evolutionary progress - increase in complexity and supercellular organization - are considered to be consequences of selection for species` evolutionary plasticity. These ideas are supported by analysis of some macroevolutionary trends, with special attention to complication of the suture line in Ammonoidea. Written in a popular style, the book is directed at a wide range of biologists as well anyone interested in evolution.
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