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Biological Reviews 83:259-294 (2008)Download free pdf

Inevitable evolution: back to The Origin and beyond the 20th Century paradigm of contingent evolution by historical natural selection

Lars Witting

Abstract: Since neo-Darwinism arose from the work of Darwin and Mendel evolution by natural selection has been seen as contingent and historical being defined by an a posterior selection process with no a priori laws that explain why evolution on Earth has taken the direction of the major evolutionary trends and transitions instead of any other direction. Recently, however, major life-history trends and transitions have been explained as inevitable because of a deterministic selection that unfolds from the energetic state of the organism and the density-dependent competitive interactions that arise from self-replication in limited environments. I describe differences and similarities between the historical and deterministic selection processes, illustrate concepts using life-history models on large body masses and limited reproductive rates, review life-history evolution with a wider focus on major evolutionary transitions, and propose that biotic evolution is driven by a universal natural selection where the long-term evolution of fitness-related traits is determined mainly by deterministic selection, while contingency is important predominately for neutral traits. Given suitable environmental conditions, it is shown that selection by energetic state and density-dependent competitive interactions unfolds to higher level selection for life-history transitions from simple asexually reproducing self-replicators to large bodied organisms with senescence and sexual reproduction between males and females, and in some cases, to the fully evolved eusocial colony with thousands of offspring workers. This defines an evolutionary arrow of time for open thermodynamic systems with a constant inflow of energy, predicting similar routes for long-term evolution on similar planets.

This article has been certified and accepted after peer review, and published in Biological Reviews 83:259-294 (2008) with Copyright retained by the Cambridge Philosophical Society. A single copy can be downloaded for the reader's personal research and study.