Category Archives: Books

Evolutionary Theory: A Hierarchical Perspective

9780226426228OUT NOW!

Eldredge N, Pievani T, Serrelli E, Tëmkin I, eds. (2016). Evolutionary Theory: A Hierarchical Perspective. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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Cultural Traits. A Multidisciplinary Perspective on Cultural Diversity

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9783319243474Understanding Cultural Traits: A Multidisciplinary Perspective on Cultural Diversity, Edited by Fabrizio Panebianco and Emanuele Serrelli.

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Macroevolution: Explanation, Interpretation, Evidence

Serrelli E, Gontier N, eds. (forthcoming). Macroevolution: Explanation, Interpretation and Evidence. Springer.
Serrelli E, Gontier N, eds. Macroevolution: Explanation, Interpretation and Evidence. Springer.


  • Provides a unique multidisciplinary approach to understand macroevolution
  • Presents state of the art scientific methodologies
  • Written by international experts from different fields

This book is divided in two parts, the first of which shows how, beyond paleontology and systematics, macroevolutionary theories apply key insights from ecology and biogeography, developmental biology, biophysics, molecular phylogenetics, and even the sociocultural sciences to explain evolution in deep time. In the second part, the phenomenon of macroevolution is examined with the help of real life-history case studies on the evolution of eukaryotic sex, the formation of anatomical form and body-plans, extinction and speciation events of marine invertebrates, hominin evolution and species conservation ethics.
The book brings together leading experts, who explain pivotal concepts such as Punctuated Equilibria, Stasis, Developmental Constraints, Adaptive Radiations, Habitat Tracking, Turnovers, (Mass) Extinctions, Species Sorting, Major Transitions, Trends, and Hierarchies – key premises that allow macroevolutionary epistemic frameworks to transcend microevolutionary theories that focus on genetic variation, selection, migration and fitness.
Along the way, the contributing authors review ongoing debates and current scientific challenges; detail new and fascinating scientific tools and techniques that allow us to cross the classic borders between disciplines; demonstrate how their theories make it possible to extend the Modern Synthesis; present guidelines on how the macroevolutionary field could be further developed; and provide a rich view of just how it was that life evolved across time and space. In short, this book is a must-read for active scholars and, because the technical aspects are fully explained, it is also accessible for non-specialists.
Understanding evolution requires a solid grasp of above-population phenomena. Species are real biological individuals, and abiotic factors impact the future course of evolution. Beyond observation, when the explanation of macroevolution is the goal, we need both evidence and theory that enable us to explain and interpret how life evolves at the grand scale.

Table of contents

Preface and Acknowledgements by the Editors

1. Emanuele Serrelli and Nathalie Gontier – Introduction: Macroevolutionary Issues and Approaches in Evolutionary Biology

Part 1: Macroevolutionary Explanations and Interpretations

2. Douglas J. Futuyma – Can Modern Evolutionary Theory Explain Macroevolution?

3. Folmer Bokma – Evolution as a Largely Autonomous Process

4. Emanuele Serrelli – Visualizing Macroevolution: From Adaptive Landscapes to Compositions of Multiple Spaces

5. Stanley S. Salthe – Toward a Natural Philosophy of Macroevolution

6. Ilya Tëmkin and Niles Eldredge – Networks and Hierarchies: Approaching Complexity in Evolutionary Theory

7. Nathalie Gontier – Uniting Micro- with Macroevolution into an Extended Synthesis: Reintegrating Life’s Natural History into Evolution Studies

Part 2: Evidencing Macroevolution with Case Studies

8. Lutz Becks and Yasaman Alavi – Using Microevolution to Explain the Macroevolutionary Observations for the Evolution of Sex

9. Alycia L. Stigall – Speciation: Expanding the Role of Biogeography and Niche Breadth in Macroevolutionary Theory

10. Alessandro Minelli – Morphological Misfits and the Architecture of Development

11. Bernard Wood and Mark Grabowski – Macroevolution In and Around the Hominin Clade

12. Elena Casetta and Jorge Marques da Silva – Facing the Big Sixth: From Prioritizing Species to Conserving Biodiversity

Look for it in the Publications page (with additional links):

Serrelli E, Gontier N, eds. (2015). Macroevolution: Explanation, Interpretation and Evidence. Springer. ISBN 978-3-319-15044-4 [DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-15045-1] [BOA] [Ac] [RG]

See the book webpage.

PhD Dissertation

This dissertation brings a contribution to the philosophical debate on adaptive landscapes, an influent “model” or “metaphor” in evolutionary biology. Some elements of innovation are: the distinction between native and migrant metaphor; a processual and communicational idea on what the Modern Synthesis was, and on what role a metaphor could have played in it; a view (taken by Richard Lewontin) of the disunity and theoretical structure of population genetics; the distinction between “adaptive surfaces” (mainly metaphors) and “combination spaces”, two terms normally conflated in the word “landscape”; an analysis of what bridges (including heuristics) may be cast between equations of gene frequency and the genotype space that, due to its huge dimensionality, cannot be handled by mathematics; a specified vocabulary to be used to clear the adaptive landscapes debate, accompanied by a plea in favor of a pragmatic approach – for example, the plurality of available notions of model forces us to choose one notion and see where it brings, otherwise we get stuck in confused, endless debates; an updated analytical comment of recent landscapes – Dobzhansky, Simpson, Dawkins but also the proliferation of combination spaces used in evolutionary biology to address a great variety of problems; the vision (got by Sergey Gavrilets) of a patchwork of tools finally making Mendelian population suitable model also for speciation; the exact position of holey landscapes in this patchwork, and the idea that scientists’s questions – like “how possibly” questions – matter in accessing this patchwork and in deciding “what explains” and “what describes” what in the world; the direct response to some mistakes Massimo Pigliucci made, I think, in his assessment of the adaptive landscape; an analysis of the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis project at its present stage, and some reflections on the conditions that will allow such a project to give a fair treatment and a good position to tools from the past, like the adaptive landscapes.

Look for it in the Publications page (with additional links):

Serrelli E (2011). Adaptive landscapes: a case study of metaphors, models, and synthesis in evolutionary biology. PhD Dissertation in Educational and Communicational Sciences, Human Sciences Doctorate School, University of Milano Bicocca, Milan, Italy. []

The Ecology of Evolution

Serrelli E (2003). L’ecologia dell’evoluzione: il pluralismo evolutivo letto attraverso un caso di radiazione adattativa. Master Degree Dissertation in Educational Sciences, University of Milano Bicocca, Milan, Italy. [DOI 10.13140/2.1.3863.5525]


This is an epistemological research, concerning knowledge processes. The choice of African Cichlids as a subject has been stimulated mainly by the fact that these fishes are targeted by remarkably different observers: fishermen, ecologists, biologists, geneticists, evolutionists with different approaches, hobbyists and aquarists – beginners and experts. The great epistemological interest of this crowd of observers lies not only in the comparison of different knowing processes applied to the same object, but also in their multiple and complex reciprocal interactions…