Evolutionary Cell Biology

The Origins of Cellular Architecture

Author Michael Lynch

The fields of molecular evolution, genome evolution, and evolutionary genetics are now well-established. Remarkably, however, although all evolutionary modifications begin at the cellular level, and despite the advances made in cell biology and microbiology over the past few decades, there is as yet no recognised discipline of evolutionary cell biology. The goal of this book is to help establish the foundations for this emerging field. Its principal aims are twofold: firstly, to promote an understanding among evolutionary biologists as to why the cellular details matter if we are to understand the mechanisms of evolution; secondly, to make clear to non-evolutionary biologists - cell biologists in particular - that evolution is not just a matter of natural selection and optimization, but a process whose reach depends on other population genetic features such as mutation, recombination, and random genetic drift.

Although there are many excellent books on cell biology, microbiology, and biophysics, almost no attention is given to evolution. Likewise, although there are numerous evolutionary biology books on the market, none of them gives more than passing attention to details at the cellular level. Thus Evolutionary Cell Biology is genuinely novel, offering a broader understanding of evolutionary processes and an appreciation for the many interesting problems that remain to be solved at the cellular and subcellular levels.

This advanced textbook is aimed at both cell biologists and evolutionary biologists. It will be accessible to upper-level undergraduates in biology, and certainly to graduate students in all areas of the life sciences. Professionals from a wide range of fields - cell biology, microbiology, evolution, biophysics, biochemistry, and mathematics - will be exposed to entirely new ideas not traditionally covered in their primary fields of expertise.


Michael Lynch is a professor in the School of Life Sciences and director of the Biodesign Center for Mechanisms of Evolution. Professor Lynch has served as President of the Genetics Society of America, the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution, the Society for the Study of Evolution, and the American Genetic Association. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

His research is focused on mechanisms of evolution at the gene, genomic, cellular, and phenotypic levels, with special attention being given to the roles of mutation, random genetic drift, and recombination. This work relies on the integration of theory development and computational analysis with empirical work on several model systems, including the microcrustacean Daphnia, the ciliate Paramecium, and numerous microbial species. The overarching mission of the new Biodesign Center for Mechanisms of Evolution is to understand the primary forces of evolution to empower all areas of the life sciences and solve key practical and urgent societal issues such as our understanding of mutation and disease.

Besides many highly acclaimed papers, especially in population genetics, he has written a two volume treatise on quantitative genetics with Bruce Walsh, the first volume (1998) focused on the genetics and analysis of quantitative traits, and the second (forthcoming) on the evolution of quantitative traits. He has been a major force in promoting neutral theories to explain variation in genomic and gene-structural architecture based on the effects of population sizes in different lineages; he presented this point of view comprehensively in his 2007 book "The Origins of Genome Architecture".

Praise for this book

Mike Lynch’s Evolutionary Cell Biology stands as an impressive achievement. It covers an outstanding amount of cell biology. It masterfully brings in what we know about evolutionary forces and their interaction (natural selection, mutation, recombination, and genetic drift) to explain how the diversity of cellular features can emerge.

Christian R. Landry Trends in Ecology & Evolution
Photo of blue cells with red nucleus
Date published
Oxford University Press

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