Beyond DNA is a journey through uncharted territory, advancing new ways of thinking about evolution and adaptation. For nearly a hundred years evolutionary biologists have understood that evolution proceeds by substituting better genes for less good ones. But consensus is growing that this is not the whole story: geneticists are now revealing that spores, sperm, pollen and ova are packed with personalised genetic information that plays an important role in offspring development and has lifelong effects. This epigenetic – or 'extra-genetic' – inheritance therefore makes significant contributions to evolutionary processes. In this highly accessible book, packed with instructive examples, Benjamin Oldroyd explains how a greater appreciation of the role of epigenetics is helping to solve a multitude of previously intractable problems in evolutionary biology – puzzles as varied as why invasive plants and animals can rapidly adapt to changes in their environment, how worker bees and queen bees can develop from the same egg, and why cancer becomes more common as we age. Beyond DNA concisely explains the mechanisms that underlie epigenetics, shows how epigenetic processes can lead to adaptation, and speculates on meaty issues such as the role that epigenetics plays in human health and happiness.
Benjamin Oldroyd is an Emeritus Professor of Behavioural Genetics at the University of Sydney. In 2020 Oldroyd was a resident fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies in Berlin, from where he edited a special issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London on epigenetics and evolution and wrote this book. Oldroyd is an experimental scientist who has published more than 300 scientific papers, mostly on honey bees and their evolution.