Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

The major evolutionary transitions in individuality

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Author(s)

Stuart West, Roberta Fisher, Andy Gardner, Erica Kiers

School/Research organisations

Abstract

The evolution of life on earth has been driven by a small number of major evolutionary transitions. These have been characterized by individuals that could previously replicate independently, cooperating to form a new, more complex life form. For example, archaea and eubacteria formed eukaryotic cells, and cells formed multicellular organisms. But not all cooperative groups are on route to
major transitions. How can we explain why major evolutionary transitions have or haven't taken place on different branches of the tree of life? We break down major transitions into two steps, the formation of a cooperative group and the transformation of that group into an integrated entity. We show how these steps
require cooperation, division of labour, communication, mutual dependence and negligible within group conflict. We find that certain ecological conditions and the ways in which groups form have played recurrent roles in driving multiple transitions. In contrast, we find that other factors have played relatively minor
roles at many key points, such as within-group kin discrimination and mechanisms to actively repress competition. More generally, by identifying the small number of factors that have driven major transitions, we provide a simpler and more unified description of how life on earth has evolved.
Close

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10112-10119
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume112
Issue number33
Early online date11 May 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015

    Research areas

  • Cooperation, Altriusm, Signalling, Division of labour, Conflict

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Resource heterogeneity and the evolution of public-goods cooperation

    Stilwell, P., O'Brien, S., Hesse, E., Lowe, C., Gardner, A. & Buckling, A., 13 Jan 2020, (Accepted/In press) In : Evolution Letters.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. The demography of human warfare can drive sex differences in altruism

    Micheletti, A. J. C., Ruxton, G. D. & Gardner, A., 11 Jan 2020, (Accepted/In press) In : Evolutionary Human Sciences.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Price's equation made clear

    Gardner, A., 4 Jan 2020, (Accepted/In press) In : Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. B, Biological Sciences.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. Genomic imprinting as a window into human language evolution

    Hitchcock, T., Paracchini, S. & Gardner, A., Jun 2019, In : BioEssays. 41, 6, 11 p., 1800212.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related by journal

  1. Acute social isolation alters neurogenomic state in songbird forebrain

    George, J., Bell, Z., Condliffe, D., Doher, K., Abaurrea, T., Spencer, K., Leitao, A., Gahr, M., Hurd, P. & Clayton, D. F., 22 Jul 2019, In : Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Latest Articles

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Asymmetric base pair opening drives helicase unwinding dynamics

    Colizzi, F., Perez Gonzalez, D. C., Fritzen, R., Levy, Y., White, M. F., Penedo-Esteiro, J. C. & Bussi, G., 5 Nov 2019, In : Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 116, 45, p. 22471-22477 7 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Asymmetries between achromatic and chromatic extraction of 3D motion signals

    Kaestner, M., Maloney, R., Wailes-Newson, K., Bloj, M., Harris, J., Morland, A. & Wade, A., 17 Jun 2019, In : Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Latest Articles, 10 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. Great apes use self-experience to anticipate an agent’s action in a false belief test

    Kano, F., Krupenye, C., Hirata, S., Tomonaga, M. & Call, J., 30 Sep 2019, In : Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Latest Articles

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related by journal

  1. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (Journal)

    Michael Martin Nevels (Guest editor)
    Jul 2016 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditor of research journal

  2. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (Journal)

    Oscar Eduardo Gaggiotti (Member of editorial board)
    1 Jan 2013 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesPeer review of manuscripts

  3. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (Journal)

    Terry K Smith (Member of editorial board)
    2012 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesPeer review of manuscripts

  4. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (Journal)

    Terry K Smith (Member of editorial board)
    2008 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesPeer review of manuscripts

  5. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (Journal)

    Gareth Brian Miles (Reviewer)
    2006 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesPeer review of manuscripts

ID: 176889629

Top