Evolutionary Geneticsby J. Maynard Smith

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  • Evolutionary Genetics by J. Maynard SmithReview by: Jaroslav FlegrFolia Geobotanica, Vol. 36, No. 1 (2001), pp. 107-108Published by: SpringerStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4201432 .Accessed: 14/06/2014 00:10

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  • Bookreviews 107

    along with a change of conceptual thinking of tropical ecologists to forward our still limited understanding of the manifold nature of the tropical communities.

    The book deals with various aspects of tropical communities, and is a valuable contribution in the field of tropical ecology. The treated topics are presented in a way understandable to all interested readers. The reviewed methodological and conceptual approaches will be very useful, especially for beginners and students in tropical ecology. The book provides suggestions for future studies and developments, and will certainly be a stimulation for further ecological research in the tropics.

    Petr Skienar

    J. Maynard Smith: EVOLUTIONARY GENETICS; Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998, 2nd ed., 344 pp. Price GBP 50.-, ISBN 0-19-850232-X (hardback)

    John Maynard Smith is one of the living classics of evolutionary biology responsible for the rapid development of this scientific branch in the post "New synthesis" period. His theory of evolutionarily stable strategies (developed and published together with G.R. Price) not only opened a new chapter in the study of the evolution of behaviour but (after connection with the theory of interallelic selection) also deeply influenced virtually all areas of modern evolutionary biology. John Maynard Smith is not only a leading person in the field of evolutionary biology but also an author of several very successful scientific books. His most influential book "The evolution of sex" deals with the problem of origin and evolution of sexual reproduction. The book "Major transitions in evolution" (written together with E. Szathmairy) represents a clear and convincing survey of many original opinions on the origin and evolution of life on our planet. In 1989 the Oxford University Press published the first edition of his book "Evolutionary genetics".

    In the introduction the author writes that the book was initially prepared as a textbook for undergraduate and postgraduate students with evolutionary biology, genetics, or molecular biology specializations. However, the book also proves useful both as a handbook for research workers in the fields of evolutionary biology or population genetics and as a generous source of inspirative ideas for everyone interested in modem biology.

    The book is written in a clear and comprehensive style. Therefore, even relatively complicated topics appear to be quite simple. However, when a student tries to solve the exercises provided at the end of most chapters he quickly realises that this impression could be a little bit deceptive. Maynard Smith is always able to find interesting open problems and never hesitates to call the students attention to them. It can even be said that the search for such open problems represents the most important secret of his book-writing method (and, maybe, even of his scientific work). He also always presents his personal "might-be-wrong" view of the problem. Such fearless approach is rather rare among current scientific writers and makes his book even more readable.

    The book consists of 15 chapters that concern the microevolution in asexual and sexual (diploid and haplodiploid) populations, fixation of an allele in large randomly-mating as well as in finite and structured populations, mechanisms of origin and preservation of genetic polymorphism, and the evolution of quantitative characters including questions of their heritability. The chapters on the evolutionarily stable strategies, on the evolution of altruistic behaviour, on evolution of sexual reproduction and on some consequences of the existence of sexual reproduction, namely the evolution of stable ratios of males and females in populations and evolutionary consequences of sexual selection are very nicely written. In my opinion the chapters on evolution of prokaryotic and eukaryotic genomes and possibly also the last two chapters on macroevolution and molecular phylogenetics go over the natural frontiers of evolutionary genetics. However, it is very interesting and useful for a student to get acquainted with the opinions of a prominent evolutionary geneticist on the nature of the most important problems in these fields.

    There is a lot of mathematics throughout this book. All evolutionary genetic rules are deduced from simple models. The author often shows how to deduce the same rule by two or more different ways (and sometimes even suggests how to demonstrate the existence of the rule using numerical simulation methods). Despite this, the book is useful (and readable) even to those having only low mathematic skills and who are used to skip the parts of text with mathematic formulas. I do not want to incite this practice but, fortunately, the book is written with an emphasis on showing the biological consequences of evolutionary genetic laws, rather than on demonstrating procedures and techniques of their derivation. Despite the fact that the author claims in the

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  • 108 Bookreviews

    introduction that "if you can not stand algebra, keep out of evolutionary biology" the book is written in such a way that it is useful even for people without mathematical skills. For example, more difficult models are usually put aside from the main text in boxes, which are not necessary to read to follow the main text (but may be needed to do some of the exercises at the end of the chapters).

    But let's stop the compliments. The book also has some shortcomings. For example, it contains an unusually high number of typographic errors. Repeatedly the text contains links to page "000". Sometimes the errors are far more serious, including typographic errors in mathematical formulas. The differences between the 1 st and 2nd editions are smaller than is suggested in the text of the coverleaf. In my opinion, buying the 2nd edition is not the best investment for the person who already has the older book. However, in the author's introduction the differences are described to a hair: A new chapter on molecular phylogenetics was included, a few errors which occurred in the text of the 1 st edition were corrected, and two chapters on evolutionarily stable strategies and on the evolution of sexual reproduction were rewritten. Maynard Smith admits that these two chapters have been rewritten on the basis of student complaints concerning the comprehensibility of the text. As he also acknowledged these two chapters were the topics on which he concentrated his own research; perhaps he was too close to them to see the difficulties. In my opinion more space should be dedicated to the present state of the discussion between the neutralistic and selectionary explanation of polymorphism, namely to T. Ohta's theory of a "nearly-neutral model of evolution", to the problems of constancy of a molecular clock rate, or to the methods of testing the existence of positive selection using DNA sequence data. The molecular phylogenetics chapter is too brief. It should probably also at least include a brief discussion of the most important minuses of the present molecular phylogeny methods, such as problems with molecular clock calibration, with the long branch attraction artifact, with differences in the substitution rate between different positions of a gene, etc. Of course, with such an upgrade the book could hardly be written in 330 pages, including the results of exercises, references and index.

    The book is primarily a university textbook for evolutionary genetics. I am absolutely sure that it can serve as a basic source for a very interesting and very useful course for undergraduate and postgraduate students. It can also serve as a reference for many university teachers on how to write an excellent textbook. Of course, the book can be recommended not only to students and teachers but also to all persons seriously interested in evolutionary biology or populationary genetics.

    Jaroslav Flegr

    RG. Jarvis: EUROPEAN FORESTS AND GLOBAL CHANGE. The likely impacts of rising C02 and temperature; Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1998, XVIII + 380 pp. Price GBP 32.99, ISBN 0-521-58478-7 (hardback)

    This book can be regarded as the Final Report on the project ECOCRAFT (from 1993 onward) and its preceding project EPOCH (1991-1992) both of which focused on the impacts of rising carbon dioxide concentrations and temperature on the growth processes of trees. Later, emphasis was shifted to modelling the consequences of global change at the stand and landscape scale, but those results have only been included in limited proportion (Chapter 10). Most chapters focus on the level of primary physiological processes (Chapter 2-5), on the interactions between elevated C02 and the availability of water, the supply of nutrients and temperature (Chapter 6-8). One section describes the use of "microcosms", i.e. mini greenhouses, to investigate the responses of complete small-scale model ecosystems planted with seedlings and juvenile beech trees. All the methods used in the research have been described thoroughly in the introductory section. Each chapter concludes with relevant references; the final Annex contains a list of papers by the participants of ECOCRAFT covering their main contributions to the preceding projects. The titles are loosely related to the content of the book, and in addition elucidate the background of the authors and teams involved in the projects.

    The list of contributors on p. XI covers the names of compilers. Under their headings, however, the authors of particular methods are unfortunately hidden, not having been quoted in the bibliography, and thus, dissolved by the compilatory procedure. Their names can be found straggled throughout the Annex, but a precise indication of the method (which is the most frequent reason for contacting authors) is difficult to find.

    Another obstacle is the lack of a list of abbreviations. Too many acronyms and symbols of unequal informational value are used; some of them basically important for understanding the text (OTC, PPFD, IRGA.

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    Article Contentsp. 107p. 108

    Issue Table of ContentsFolia Geobotanica, Vol. 36, No. 1 (2001), pp. 1-112Front MatterForum: Species-Pool Hypothesis: [Introduction] [p. 1]Forum: Species-Pool HypothesisOn the Species-Pool Hypothesis and on the Quasi-Neutral Concept of Plant Community Diversity [pp. 3-8]Local Richness-Species Pool Ratio: A Consequence of the Species-Area Relationship [pp. 9-23]Extending the Quasi-Neutral Concept [pp. 25-33]Species-Pool Relations: Like a Wooden Light Bulb? [pp. 35-44]Species-Pool Hypothesis: Limits to Its Testing [pp. 45-52]Long-Term and Fine-Scale Coexistence of Closely Related Species [pp. 53-61]The Species-Pool Hypothesis from a Bryological Perspective [pp. 63-70]Difficulties with Estimating and Interpreting Species Pools and the Implications for Understanding Patterns of Diversity [pp. 71-83]

    Associations of Dominant Plant Species with Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi during Vegetation Development on Coal Mine Spoil Banks [pp. 85-97]Book ReviewsReview: untitled [p. 99]Review: untitled [pp. 99-100]Review: untitled [pp. 100-101]Review: untitled [pp. 101-103]Review: untitled [p. 103]Review: untitled [p. 104]Review: untitled [pp. 104-105]Review: untitled [pp. 105-106]Review: untitled [pp. 106-107]Review: untitled [pp. 107-108]Review: untitled [pp. 108-109]Review: untitled [pp. 109-110]Review: untitled [p. 110]Review: untitled [p. 111]Review: untitled [pp. 111-112]Review: untitled [p. 112]

    Back Matter