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The domains of life and their evolutionary implications

Part 4. Bioinformatics

4.4. Comparative Analysis and Phylogeny

Introductory Review

  1. Carl R. Woese

Published Online: 15 NOV 2005

DOI: 10.1002/047001153X.g404112

Encyclopedia of Genetics, Genomics, Proteomics and Bioinformatics

Encyclopedia of Genetics, Genomics, Proteomics and Bioinformatics

How to Cite

Woese, C. R. 2005. The domains of life and their evolutionary implications. Encyclopedia of Genetics, Genomics, Proteomics and Bioinformatics. 4:4.4:40.

Author Information

  1. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 NOV 2005

Abstract

After almost a century in virtual stasis, Darwin's world, the world of biology as fundamentally an expression of the evolutionary process, is once again emerging at the forefront of the discipline of biology. This has followed a century in which biology was perceived in mechanistic, reductionist terms, and the gene was effectively taken as the be-all and end-all of biology. The evolutionary renaissance is the result of intra- and interdisciplinary factors. On the one hand, the molecular paradigm, which so successfully guided biology during the twentieth century, is being recognized for what it was; an incomplete, superficial (and now failed) conception of the living world. In addition to this, the advent of genome sequencing (in the last decade of the 1990s) has provided huge amounts of information that require evolutionary explanation. On the other hand, developments in the physical sciences and mathematics over the past 50 years have shown us that classical physics (which served as the basis for the twentieth century view of biology), is far from a complete world view, and with the aid of computers, we have come to appreciate and begin to understand the vast “nonlinear” side of reality. The fact that evolution is fundamentally a nonlinear (complex dynamic) process explains why: (1) it was neglected (not recognized as important) during the twentieth century and (2) it is now reemerging as the essence of biology.

Keywords:

  • evolution;
  • phylogeny;
  • Darwin;
  • molecular evolution;
  • variation;
  • horizontal gene transfer (HGT)