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For much of the twentieth century it was assumed that genes alone mediate the transmission of biological information across generations and provide the raw material for natural selection. In Extended Heredity, leading evolutionary biologists Russell Bonduriansky and Troy Day challenge this premise. Drawing on the latest research, they demonstrate that what happens during our lifetimes – and even our grandparents' and great-grandparents' lifetimes – can influence the features of our descendants. On the basis of these discoveries, Bonduriansky and Day develop an extended concept of heredity that upends ideas about how traits can and cannot be transmitted across generations.
By examining the history of the gene-centered view in modern biology and reassessing fundamental tenets of evolutionary theory, Bonduriansky and Day show that nongenetic inheritance – involving epigenetic, environmental, behavioral, and cultural factors – could play an important role in evolution. The discovery of nongenetic inheritance therefore has major implications for key questions in evolutionary biology, as well as human health.
Extended Heredity reappraises long-held ideas and opens the door to a new understanding of inheritance and evolution.
Russell Bonduriansky is associate professor of evolutionary biology at the University of New South Wales in Australia. Troy Day is a professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics and the Department of Biology at Queen's University in Canada. His books include Biocalculus and A Biologist's Guide to Mathematical Modeling in Ecology and Evolution.
"Extended Heredity [shows] how far the mainstream has shifted to include epigenetic forces alongside genes as drivers of who and what we are."
– Liz Else and Simon Ings, New Scientist
"A work of great clarity. Bonduriansky and Day provide an absorbing account of evolution in which a menagerie of epigenetic forces joins our genes as the drivers of who we are and what we are like."
– Mark Pagel, author of Wired for Culture
"This lively and enjoyable book articulates the role of nongenic inheritance as an essential aspect of evolutionary biology. Extended Heredity is a most welcome contribution to the field."
– Jan Sapp, author of The New Foundations of Evolution
"Clear and timely, Extended Heredity looks at the evolutionary importance of nongenetic inheritance and how it offers exciting research perspectives. This book will have a major influence on how nongenetic inheritance will be dealt with in future years, by both believers and skeptics of the concept."
– Anne Charmantier, French National Center for Scientific Research