Cover image for Sudden origins : fossils, genes, and the emergence of species
Sudden origins : fossils, genes, and the emergence of species
Schwartz, Jeffrey H.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Wiley, [1999]

Physical Description:
xi, 420 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


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QH366.2 .S386 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Finally a compelling answer to the question that has plagued scientists for centuries . . .
"A detailed and informative historical account."-Nature
"This is an intriguing and significant work."-Library Journal
"A provocative new theory to explain how species arise."-Scientific American
"A worthwhile attempt at bridging the new developments in how species may change and the evidence for the patterns of those changes."-American Scientist
Darwin may have argued that new species emerge through a slow, gradual accumulation of tiny mutations, but the fossil record reveals a very different scenario-the sudden emergence of whole new species, with no apparent immediate ancestors.
In this provocative and timely book, Jeffrey Schwartz presents a groundbreaking and radical new theory that explains exactly how evolution works. Turning to the marvels of genetics, paleontology, embryology, and anatomy, and introducing the recent discovery of an extraordinary type of gene, known as homeobox genes, Schwartz provides an evocative answer to the long-standing question: How do species emerge?
Writing with the expert knowledge only an insider can bring, Schwartz tells the intriguing history of the study of evolution, from the initial breakthrough discoveries to the famous Piltdown controversy up through the genetics revolution. Sudden Origins is a monumental book that ties together all the threads of evolutionary theory while providing a compelling answer to one of life's most enduring conundrums. This book is crucial reading for anyone who has ever pondered the mysteries of our evolutionary heritage.

Author Notes

Jeffrey H. Schwartz, Ph.D., is a professor of anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Anthropology professor (Univ. of Pittsburgh) Schwartz's latest tome (after The Red Ape) is best viewed as a combination of three books that are only loosely tied together. The first blends changing ideas about human ancestors, a brief summary of their fossil evidence and a look at some of the dominant figures in archeology to provide a historical overview of human evolution. The second reviews theories about the origins of species while providing a somewhat idiosyncratic history of evolutionary biology from Charles Darwin to the present. The third, and briefest, offers Schwartz's ideas on how new species arise. Like many scientists before him, Schwartz argues that regulatory genes called homeobox genes, which were discovered in the 1980s, control developmental processes in such a way that small alterations to their structure can lead to major shifts in organisms, possibly even creating new species. Stressing the importance of an integrated approach to the study of evolution, Schwartz contends that "there is a very real need to return the study of comparative morphology, and especially development, to the fore of evolutionary biology." Perhaps. But his dense book is neither sufficiently innovative to gain the attention of most experts nor sufficiently eloquent to hold the interest of the general science reader. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

A nagging problem with Darwin's theory of evolution has been the issue of "missing links"Äthe sudden appearance of new life forms significantly different from their ancestors, with no sign of intermediary forms in the fossil record. Schwartz (anthropology, Univ. of Pittsburgh) proposes an explanation of how this could occur based on recent research in genetics and developmental biology. Crucial to his explanation is the role of homeobox or "hox" genes, which control the rate and duration of growth of an organism and its parts and greatly affect its adult form. As background to his own synthesis of how evolution works, Schwartz also provides a detailed discussion of the theories of significant figures in the history of evolutionary thought. This is a scholarly, intriguing, and significant work, well documented with notes, although they lack the convenience of numbering. Related titles in a somewhat more popular style include Peter J. Bowler's Life's Splendid Drama (LJ 11/15/96), a history of evolutionary thought through 1940, and Kenneth J. McNamara's Shapes of Time (LJ 10/1/97), an explanation of new evolutionary ideas based on the rates and timing of an organism's development. Academic and large public libraries should have Schwartz's book.ÄMarit MacArthur, Univ. of Colorado, Denver (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

The extraordinary advances in genetics and developmental biology over the past two decades are now producing fundamental changes in evolutionary theory. Schwartz's important book is a popular summary of "the new evolution." Evolutionary theorists have long been plagued by what some have seen as a dichotomous and contradictory set of processes: microevolution for small changes within a species, and macroevolution for large-scale changes leading to new species and higher clades. The discovery of regulatory genes, especially homeobox genes, may now explain the origin and spread of novel features in populations, even features as complex as eyes, wings, and limbs with digits. The author reviews the development of these ideas, resurrecting the contributions of scientists such as Goldschmidt, Schindewolf, and Bateson, and reinvigorating the debate over "punctuated equilibrium" in the fossil record. A theme throughout is the application of these new evolutionary ideas to the record of fossil hominids, the author's specialty. This book will be especially useful in refuting recent antievolutionary arguments that the scarcity of transitional fossil "missing links" somehow means that evolution did not occur. Schwartz writes clearly, and his arguments will be accessible to anyone with a minimal background in biology. General readers; undergraduates through professionals. M. A. Wilson; College of Wooster

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introductionp. 1
1 A Rash of Discoveriesp. 14
2 How Humans Distinguished Themselves from the Rest of the Animal Worldp. 46
3 Coming to Grips with the Pastp. 71
4 Filling in the Gaps of Human Evolutionp. 100
5 Humans as Embryosp. 126
6 Development, Inheritance, and Evolutionary Changep. 162
7 Genetics and the Demise of Darwinismp. 187
8 Rediscovering Darwinp. 217
9 Genetics Goes Statisticalp. 243
10 The Origin of Species Revisitedp. 276
11 Toward a New Evolutionp. 310
12 The New Evolutionp. 349
References and Notesp. 380
Glossaryp. 405
Indexp. 409