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Keywords:

  • developmental pathways;
  • evolution of life;
  • exon shuffling;
  • gene recruitment;
  • genome evolution;
  • horizontal genetic exchange;
  • origin of life;
  • regulatory elements;
  • RNA world

Abstract During the past two decades, the fields of molecular biology and genetics have enabled study of far broader and more detailed aspects of evolutionary change than were possible when the evolutionary synthesis was elaborated in the mid-twentieth century. The capacity for complete sequencing of both genes and proteins of all groups of organisms provide, simultaneously, the means to determine both the patterns and processes of evolution throughout the history of life. Increased knowledge of the genome documents the changing nature of its composition, mode of transmission, and the nature of the units of selection. Advances in evolutionary developmental biology demonstrate the conservation of genetic elements throughout multicellular organisms, and explain how control of the timing, position and nature of their expression has produced the extraordinary diversity of living plants and animals. The next generation of evolutionary biologists will benefit greatly from the increased integration of these new fields of research with those that are currently emphasized in the standard textbooks and journals.