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, 239 (2), 236-46

The Evolution of Information in the Major Transitions


The Evolution of Information in the Major Transitions

Eva Jablonka et al. J Theor Biol.


Maynard Smith and Szathmáry's analysis of the major transitions in evolution was based on changes in the way information is stored, transmitted and interpreted. With the exception of the transition to human linguistic societies, their discussion centred on changes in DNA and the genetic system. We argue that information transmitted by non-genetic means has played a key role in the major transitions, and that new and modified ways of transmitting non-DNA information resulted from them. We compare and attempt to categorise the major transitions, and suggest that the transition from RNA as both gene and enzyme to DNA as genetic material and proteins as enzymes may have been a double one. Unlike Maynard Smith and Szathmáry, we regard the emergence of the nervous system as a major transition. The evolution of a nervous system not only changed the way that information was transmitted between cells and profoundly altered the nature of the individuals in which it was present, it also led to a new type of heredity-social and cultural heredity-based on the transmission of behaviourally acquired information.

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