Theory in Biosciences

, Volume 124, Issue 1, pp 1–24

Endosymbiosis, cell evolution, and speciation


DOI: 10.1016/j.thbio.2005.04.001

Cite this article as:
Kutschera, U. & Niklas, K.J. Theory Biosci. (2005) 124: 1. doi:10.1016/j.thbio.2005.04.001


In 1905, the Russian biologist C. Mereschkowsky postulated that plastids (e.g., chloroplasts) are the evolutionary descendants of endosymbiotic cyanobacteria-like organisms. In 1927, I. Wallin explicitly postulated that mitochondria likewise evolved from once free-living bacteria. Here, we summarize the history of these endosymbiotic concepts to their modern-day derivative, the “serial endosymbiosis theory”, which collectively expound on the origin of eukaryotic cell organelles (plastids, mitochondria) and subsequent endosymbiotic events. Additionally, we review recent hypotheses about the origin of the nucleus. Model systems for the study of “endosymbiosis in action” are also described, and the hypothesis that symbiogenesis may contribute to the generation of new species is critically assessed with special reference to the secondary and tertiary endosymbiosis (macroevolution) of unicellular eukaryotic algae.


Algae Chloroplasts Cyanobacteria Endosymbiosis Mitochondria Plastid evolution Speciation 

Copyright information

© Elsevier GmbH 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut für BiologieUniversität KasselKasselGermany
  2. 2.Department of Plant BiologyCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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