for Outline: October 10th (or before)
The outline should include the overall structure of the essay (e.g., introduction, thesis, antithesis, synthesis, conclusion) AND a collection of the ideas that you plan to cover in the different parts.
Deadline for the 1st Draft: November 19th (or before)
Deadline for final version: December 9th (or before)
What are the units of natural selection? Genes, Organisms, Communities
Can the genome be considered as an ecosystem?
Can ecological concepts be applied to relations between genes? (symbiosis, mutualism, parasitism)
Discuss one or more examples of selfish genetic elements and molecular parasites making positive contributions to the host fitness on the long run (possible are inteins, introns, nonsense-mediated mRNA decay pathway, hedgehog proteins). In your essay include a brief discussion wether or not this contribution initially qualifies as a nearly neutral pathway towards higher complexity.
Items to think about:
parasitism and altruistic cooperation within the human genome.
ecological terms be used to describe interactions at the gene and genome level?
- To what extent can/need genes be considered as the unit for selection?
- How do species become more fit?
- Is evolution driven by selfishness and competition (nature red in tooth and claw), or by cooperation (symbiosis, lichen, kefir endosymbionts)
- Frequently competition for resources acting at a level of subunits is counterproductive: e.g., selfish cells in a metazoan turn into cancer, in social insects there is no or little competition between members of the same state (and frequently they are genetically identical). Can/could this be different at the gene level?
- Should there be a distinction between selfish and parasitic genes? Altruism can be a form of selfishness (I help you, you help me, life is not a zero sum game). According to Richard Dawkins' original definition all genes are selfish, even the ones cooperating with each other.
- Wikipedia on Group selection
and Units of selection
- Eugene V. Koonin: Evolution of genome architecture
- John C. Avise: Evolving
Genomic Metaphors: A New Look at the Language of DNA
- Steven J. Gould: Gulliver's
further travels: the necessity and difficulty of a hierarchical theory of selection.
- Koschwanez JH, Foster KR, Murray AW (2011) Sucrose Utilization in Budding Yeast as a Model for the Origin of Undifferentiated Multicellularity. PLoS Biol 9(8): e1001122 (cheating, cooperation and the rise of multicellularity in yeast)
Axelrod; William D. Hamilton: The
Evolution of Cooperation or here
Science, New Series, Vol. 211, No. 4489. (Mar. 27, 1981), pp. 1390-1396.
Barlow, "From Gaia to Selfish Genes", pp. 195 - 213 and 238-239 (available at
WebCT's reading materials or via Google books)
- Sorin Sonea: The global organism: A new view of bacteria. The Sciences 1988 (On WebCT or retrieve through Google scholar)
- Paul B. Rainey: Essay on "Unity from conflict" Nature 446, 616 (5 April 2007) | doi:10.1038/446616a; Published online 4 April 2007
- Richard Dawkins: The selfish gene.
Oxford University Press; 1976.
- Eugene V. Koonin: Viruses and mobile elements as drivers of evolutionary transitions, Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2016 Aug 19;371(1701). pii: 20150442. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2015.0442.