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In 1995, John Maynard Smith and Eors Szathmary published their influential book The Major Transitions in Evolution. The 'transitions' that Maynard Smith and Szathmary chose to describe all constituted major changes in the kinds of organisms that existed but, most important, these events also transformed the evolutionary process itself. The evolution of new levels of biological organization, such as chromosomes, cells, multicellular organisms, and complex social groups radically changed the kinds of individuals natural selection could act upon. Many of these events also produced revolutionary changes in the process of inheritance, by expanding the range and fidelity of transmission, establishing new inheritance channels, and developing more open-ended sources of variation.
Maynard Smith and Szathmary had planned a major revision of their work, but the death of Maynard Smith in 2004 prevented this. In The Major Transitions in Evolution Revisited, prominent scholars (including Szathmary himself) reconsider and extend the earlier book's themes in light of recent developments in evolutionary biology. The contributors discuss different frameworks for understanding macroevolution, prokaryote evolution (the study of which has been aided by developments in molecular biology), and the complex evolution of multicellularity.
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Brett Calcott is a postdoctoral researcher in the Philosophy Program in the Research School of the Social Sciences at Australia National University and a founding member of ANU's Centre for Macroevolution and Macroecology.
Kim Sterelny is Professor of Philosophy at both the ANU and Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand.
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