New Theory of Early Animal Evolution
A New York Medical College developmental biologist whose life’s work has supported the theory of evolution has developed a concept that dramatically alters one of its basic assumptions—that survival is based on a change’s functional advantage if it is to persist. Stuart A. Newman, Ph.D., professor of cell biology and anatomy, offers an alternative model in proposing that the origination of the structural motifs of animal form were actually predictable and relatively sudden, with abrupt morphological transformations favored during the early period of animal evolution.
Newman’s long view of evolution is fully explained in his perspective article, “Physico-Genetic Determinants in the Evolution of Development,” published in the journal Science. Evolution is commonly thought to take place opportunistically, by small steps, with each change persisting, or not, based on its functional advantage. Newman’s alternative model is based on recent inferences about the genetics of the single-celled ancestors of the animals and, more surprisingly, the physics of “middle-scale” materials.