Cover image for Acquiring genomes : a theory of the origins of species
Acquiring genomes : a theory of the origins of species
Margulis, Lynn, 1938-2011.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Basic Books, [2002]

Physical Description:
xvi, 240 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
QH447 .M37 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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In this groundbreaking book, Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan present an answer to one of the enduring mysteries of evolution--the source of inherited variation that gives rise to new species. Random genetic mutation, long believed to be the main source of variation, is only a marginal factor. As the authors demonstrate in this book, the more important source of speciation, by far, is the acquisition of new genomes by symbiotic merger. The result of thirty years of delving into a vast, mostly arcane literature, this is the first book to go beyond--and reveal the severe limitations of--the "Modern Synthesis" that has dominated evolutionary biology for almost three generations. Lynn Margulis, whom E. O. Wilson called "one of the most successful synthetic thinkers in modern biology," and her co-author Dorion Sagan have written a comprehensive and scientifically supported presentation of a theory that directly challenges the assumptions we hold about the variety of the living world.

Author Notes

Lynn Margulis was born in Chicago, Illinois on March 5, 1938. She graduated from the University of Chicago at the age of 18. She received a master's degree in genetics and zoology from the University of Wisconsin and a Ph.D. in genetics from the University of California, Berkeley. She taught for 22 years at Boston University before joining the faculty at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1988.

She was best known for her theory of species evolution by symbiogensis. The manuscript in which she first presented her findings was published in 1967 by the Journal of Theoretical Biology. An expanded version, with additional evidence to support the theory, became her first book entitled Origin of Eukaryotic Cells. Her other works include Symbiosis in Cell Evolution, Luminous Fish: Tales of Science and Love, Dazzle Gradually: Reflections on the Nature of Nature, and Mind, Life, and Universe: Conversations with Great Scientists of Our Time. She died five days after suffering a hemorrhagic stroke on November 22, 2011 at the age of 73.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

A challenger of the orthodox «neo-Darwinist» interpretation of evolution, microbiologist Margulis has made her professional mark touting an alternative: symbiogenesis. She and coauthor (and son) Sagan have presented their ideas in earlier popular works (What Is Life?, 1995), but never as vigorously as in this volume. Essentially, the debate between neo-Darwinists and Margulis hinges on the definition of a species, and the manner in which a new one appears. To Margulis and Sagan, the neo-Darwinist model, which asserts random gene mutation as the source of inherited variations, is «wildly overemphasized,» and to support their view, they delve deeply into the world of microbes. They detail the anatomy of cells with and without nuclei, positing a process of genome ingestion that creates a new species. Surprisingly, the upshot of Margulis' theories is the rehabilitation of Jean Baptiste de Lamarck, whose theory that supposedly acquired traits are hereditary has been ridiculed for 150 years. Polemical and provocative, Margulis and Sagan's work should set many to thinking that evolution has not yet been completely figured out. Gilbert Taylor.