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The Origin of Higher Taxa

Palaeobiological, Developmental, and Ecological Perspectives

T. S. Kemp

The Origin of Higher Taxa

T. S. Kemp

320 pages | 25 halftones, 75 line drawings | © 2015
Paper $49.00 ISBN: 9780226335957 Published December 2015 For sale in North and South America only
Cloth $120.00 ISBN: 9780226335810 Published December 2015 For sale in North and South America only
E-book $10.00 to $49.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226336008 Published December 2015 For sale in North and South America only
In the grand sweep of evolution, the origin of radically new kinds of organisms in the fossil record is the result of a relatively simple process: natural selection marching through the ages. Or is it? Does Darwinian evolution acting over a sufficiently long period of time really offer a complete explanation, or are unusual genetic events and particular environmental and ecological circumstances also involved? With The Origin of Higher Taxa, Tom Kemp sifts through the layers of paleobiological, genetic, and ecological evidence on a quest to answer this essential, game-changing question of biology.

Looking beyond the microevolutionary force of Darwinian natural selection, Kemp enters the realm of macroevolution, or evolution above the species level. From the origin of mammals to the radiation of flowering plants, these large-scale patterns—such as the rise of novel organismal design, adaptive radiations, and lineage extinctions—encompass the most significant trends and transformations in evolution. As macroevolution cannot be studied by direct observation and experiment, scientists have to rely on the outcome of evolution as evidence for the processes at work, in the form of patterns of species appearances and extinctions in a spotty fossil record, and through the nature of species extant today. Marshalling a wealth of new fossil and molecular evidence and increasingly sophisticated techniques for their study, Kemp here offers a timely and original reinterpretation of how higher taxa such as arthropods, mollusks, mammals, birds, and whales evolved—a bold new take on the history of life.
Review Quotes
Douglas H. Erwin, National Museum of Natural History | Systematic Biology
“In his new book, The Origin of Higher Taxa, Kemp . . . provides an insightful and articulate defense of the importance of higher taxa as an evolutionary problem, and expands upon his theory of correlated progression as the responsible mechanism. In the sciences, a phenomenon must be real to be studied (well, it helps anyway, except perhaps in physics), and Kemp’s defense of higher taxa as real ontological entities is based on the idea that extinction separates evolutionary lineages into discrete morphological groups. The clumpy nature of morphologies is indeed one of the major challenges for evolutionary biology.”
Wallace Arthur, National University of Ireland, Galway | Evolution & Development
“I very much enjoyed reading it. The language flows nicely, the structure works well, and the length is, in my view, about right. The question that Kemp grapples with is of the utmost importance. The correlated progression model is clearly articulated and the lack of discord between it and the data is noted—though of course this falls short of confirming the model. Right from the start the book lures the reader in.”
Michael J. Benton, University of Bristol | Trends in Ecology & Evolution
“Kemp’s book provides much to think about, ideas and models linking palaeobiology and evo-devo genomics. He does not explore phylogenetic comparative approaches to macroevolution which have the advantage of providing numerical approaches that are available now and that can be tested. His book could be criticized for being too open-ended and hypothetical, but then such deeply considered, thoughtful syntheses can provide the materials to construct numerical models for testing. This is the role of Kemp’s book, and it has the advantage of being written lucidly and in a style any graduate student could follow.”

Royal Society of Biology: Royal Society Postgraduate Textbook Prize
Short Listed

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For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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