Arrival of the Fittest

  • by Andreas Wagner
  • Narrated by Sean Pratt
  • 8 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Darwin's theory of natural selection explains how useful adaptations are preserved over time. But the biggest mystery about evolution eluded him. As genetics pioneer Hugo de Vries put it, "natural selection may explain the survival of the fittest, but it cannot explain the arrival of the fittest." Can random mutations over a mere 3.8 billion years really be responsible for wings, eyeballs, knees, camouflage, lactose digestion, photosynthesis, and the rest of nature’s creative marvels? And if the answer is no, what is the mechanism that explains evolution’s speed and efficiency?
In Arrival of the Fittest, renowned evolutionary biologist Andreas Wagner draws on over 15 years of research to present the missing piece in Darwin's theory. Using experimental and computational technologies that were heretofore unimagined, he has found that adaptations are not just driven by chance, but by a set of laws that allow nature to discover new molecules and mechanisms in a fraction of the time that random variation would take. Consider the Arctic cod, a fish that lives and thrives within six degrees of the North Pole, in waters that regularly fall below zero degrees. At that temperature, the internal fluids of most organisms turn into ice crystals. And yet, the arctic cod survives by producing proteins that lower the freezing temperature of its body fluids, much like antifreeze does for a car's engine coolant. The invention of those proteins is an archetypal example of nature’s enormous powers of creativity.
Meticulously researched, carefully argued, evocatively written, and full of fascinating examples from the animal kingdom, Arrival of the Fittest offers up the final puzzle piece in the mystery of life's rich diversity.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Robustness makes for an interesting life and book

Life is robust and its neutral states provide for easier suitability for overall fitness within environments leading to the fittest set of genes. Yes, that sentence is a mouthful but the author will step you through all of the steps necessary for understanding what is meant by it.

The author looks at life from its beginning to today mostly at the genotype and the resulting phenotype level. The going does get tough at times, but the author is very good at stepping the listener through. He states the two key components of life are its universal currency of energy, ATP, and the Universal Genetic Code, DNA and/or RNA.

He never misses sharing a good example while explaining the complex nature of amino acids, proteins, and metabolisms (5000 known). I didn't know dogs can synthesize vitamin C and humans can't. We need 13 vitamins, there are 20 amino acids making up the proteins we need, the body can synthesize 12 of them but needs 8 from our food sources and so on. I did not realize there were so many cool things to know about bacteria until he explained how they exchange genes and reproduce. Interesting stuff.

His professional work is in analyzing the movement necessary for viable genomes giving workable phenotypes through large scale computer modeling. He talks about this hyperspace of almost all potential combinations and how the process of evolution can move towards only viable solutions to biological configurations thus leading to the fittest.

There's definitely enough interesting things in this book to hook the average listener. His discussions on hyperspace and his computer work can get detailed, but he gives plenty of interesting discussions on many related topics making this book an interesting read.
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- Gary "l'enfer c'est les autres"

Fascinating story of analyzing biological net.

This author has tried everything to explain our incredible biological world in terms that life is an inevitable process.

But after reading it through multiple times I am still left with the impression that there is a creator who has invented all these special and minute laws of physics and math.
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- Darrell Stimson

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-02-2014
  • Publisher: Gildan Media, LLC