Although molecular systematists may use the terminology of cladism, claiming that the reconstruction of phylogenetic relationships is based on shared derived states , the latter is not the case. Rather, molecular systematics is based on the assumption, first clearly articulated by Zuckerkandl and Pauling , that degree of overall similarity reflects degree of relatedness. This assumption derives from interpreting molecular similarity between taxa in the context of a Darwinian model of continual and gradual change. Review of the history of molecular (...) systematics and its claims in the context of molecular biology reveals that there is no basis for the “molecular assumption.”. (shrink)
Although the construction of neo-Darwinism grew out of Thomas Hunt Morgan's melding of Darwinism and Mendelism, his evidence did not soley support a model of gradual change. To the contrary, he was confronted with observations that could have led him to a more "evo-devo" understanding of the emergence of novel features. Indeed, since Morgan was an embryologist before he became a fruit-fly geneticist, one would have predicted that the combination of these two lines of research would have resulted in early (...) formulations of concepts relevant to evolutionary developmental biology. It is thus of interest to review Morgan's thought processes and arguments for at first rejecting both Darwinism and Mendelism, and then for later dismissing data that would have yielded a model of rapid morphological change in favor of a model of change based on the accumulation of minor mutations and their morphological consequences. (shrink)
I attempt to raise questions regarding elements of systematics—primarily in the realm of phylogenetic reconstruction—in order to provoke discussion on the current state of affairs in this discipline, and also evolutionary biology in general: e.g., conceptions of homology and homoplasy, hypothesis testing, the nature of and objections to Hennigian “phylogenetic systematics”, and the schism between Darwinian descendants of the “modern evolutionary synthesis” and their supposed antagonists, cladists and punctuationalists.
We propose that the sudden emergence of metazoans during the Cambrian was due to the appearance of a complex genome architecture that was capable of computing. In turn, this made defining recursive functions possible. The underlying molecular changes that occurred in tandem were driven by the increased probability of maintaining duplicated DNA fragments in the metazoan genome. In our model, an increase in telomeric units, in conjunction with a telomerase-negative state and consequent telomere shortening, generated a reference point equivalent to (...) a non-reversible counting mechanism. (shrink)