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Evolution of Individuality: A Case Study in the Volvocine Green Algae

Hanschen, Erik R. and Davison, Dinah R. and Grochau-Wright, Zachariah I. and Michod, Richard E. (2017) Evolution of Individuality: A Case Study in the Volvocine Green Algae. Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology, 9 (3). ISSN 2475-3025

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While numerous criteria have been proposed in definitions of biological individuality, it is not clear whether these criteria reflect the evolutionary processes that underlie transitions in individuality. We consider the evolution of individuality during the transition from unicellular to multicellular life. We assume that “individuality” (however it is defined) has changed in the volvocine green algae lineage during the transition from single cells, to simple multicellular colonies with four to one hundred cells, to more complex multicellular organisms with thousands of differentiated cells. We map traits associated with the various proposed individuality criteria onto volvocine algae species thought to be similar to ancestral forms arising during this transition in individuality. We find that the fulfillment of some criteria, such as genetic homogeneity and genetic uniqueness, do not change across species, while traits underpinning other aspects of individuality, including degrees of integration, group-level fitness and adaptation, and group indivisibility, change dramatically. We observe that different kinds of individuals likely exist at different levels of organization (cell and group) in the same species of algae. Future research should focus on the causes and consequences of variation in individuality.

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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Hanschen, Erik
Davison, Dinah R.
Grochau-Wright, Zachariah I.
Michod, Richard E.
Keywords: division of labor, evolution of individuality, individuality, multicellularity, multilevel selection, volvocine algae
Depositing User: Nora Boyd
Date Deposited: 06 Apr 2018 16:12
Last Modified: 06 Apr 2018 16:12
Item ID: 14524
Journal or Publication Title: Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology
DOI or Unique Handle:
Date: 2017
Volume: 9
Number: 3
ISSN: 2475-3025

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