The most striking feature about an assemblage of different organisms is the distinction among species in size and architecture. Excluding entities such as viruses that reproduce but are generally regarded as nonliving, the size range spans at least 21 orders of magnitude from wall-less bacteria known as mycoplasmas at about 10−13 g to blue whales, which exceed 108 g. The blue whale, incidentally, is the largest animal ever known.

Suggested Additional Reading

  1. Alegado, R.A. and N. King (Organizers). 2014. The Origin and Evolution of Eukaryotes. Cold Spring Harbor Perspect. Biol. Doi:10.1101/cshperspect.a016162. Collected papers on the evolutionary transitions to multicellularity and complexity. Google Scholar
  2. Bonner, J.T. 1965. Size and Cycle: An Essay on the Structure of Biology. Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton, NJ. A fascinating, eloquent account, timeless in its relevance, of how size affects all creatures with emphasis on how size of the organism changes during the course of the life cycle. Google Scholar
  3. Bonner, J.T. 1988. The Evolution of Complexity by Means of Natural Selection. Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton, NJ. An excellent, stimulating synthesis on why there has been a progressive increase in size and complexity from bacteria to plants and animals. Google Scholar
  4. Carroll, S.B. 2001. Chance and necessity: the evolution of morphological complexity and diversity. Science 409: 1102–1109. An insightful and authoritative synthesis on the evolution of life, including the evolutionary increase in size. Google Scholar
  5. Hedges, S.B. 2002. The origin and evolution of model organisms. Nature Rev. Genet.3: 838–849. An interesting and informative synopsis of times of divergence of the prokaryotes, protists, plants, fungi, and animals, subject to the caveat that all such estimates are works in progress. Google Scholar
  6. Knoll, A.H., D.E. Canfield, and K.O. Konhauser (eds.). 2012. Fundamentals of Geobiology. Oxford Univ. Press, UK. An excellent, well-illustrated synthesis by multiple authors on the early history of life on Earth. Google Scholar
  7. Thompson, D’A. W. 1961. On Growth and Form. (Abridged edition edited by J.T. Bonner of the original 1942 text.) Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England. This classic book remains a benchmark of excellence on the analysis of form. Google Scholar
  8. Vogel, S. 2003. Comparative Biomechanics: Life’s Physical World. Princeton Univ. Press. An interesting, readable, witty, and authoritative explanation pitched at the undergraduate level with innumerable fascinating examples. Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Wisconsin–MadisonMadisonUSA

Personalised recommendations