George R McGhee Jr.

George McGhee is Distinguished Professor of Paleobiology in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Rutgers University and a Member of the Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research in Klosterneuburg, Austria. He is the author of Convergent Evolution: Limited Forms Most Beautiful (MIT Press)

  • Convergent Evolution on Earth

    Convergent Evolution on Earth

    Lessons for the Search for Extraterrestrial Life

    George R McGhee Jr.

    An analysis of patterns of convergent evolution on Earth that suggests where we might look for similar convergent forms on other planets.

    Why does a sea lily look like a palm tree? And why is a sea lily called a “lily” when it is a marine animal and not a plant? Many marine animals bear a noticeable similarity in form to land-dwelling plants. And yet these marine animal forms evolved in the oceans first; land plants independently and convergently evolved similar forms much later in geologic time. In this book, George McGhee analyzes patterns of convergent evolution on Earth and argues that these patterns offer lessons for the search for life elsewhere in the universe.

    Our Earth is a water world; 71 percent of the earth's surface is covered by water. The fossil record shows that multicellular life on dry land is a new phenomenon; for the vast majority of the earth's history—3,500 million years of its 4,560 million years of existence—complex life existed only in the oceans. Explaining that convergent biological evolution occurs because of limited evolutionary pathways, McGhee examines examples of convergent evolution in forms of feeding, immobility and mobility, defense, and organ systems. McGhee suggests that the patterns of convergent evolution that we see in our own water world indicate the potential for similar convergent forms in other water worlds. We should search for extraterrestrial life on water worlds, and for technological life on water worlds with continental landmasses.

    • Hardcover $45.00
  • Convergent Evolution

    Convergent Evolution

    Limited Forms Most Beautiful

    George R McGhee Jr.

    An analysis of convergent evolution from molecules to ecosystems, demonstrating the limited number of evolutionary pathways available to life.

    Charles Darwin famously concluded On the Origin of Species with a vision of “endless forms most beautiful” continually evolving. More than 150 years later many evolutionary biologists see not endless forms but the same, or very similar, forms evolving repeatedly in many independent species lineages. A porpoise's fishlike fins, for example, are not inherited from fish ancestors but are independently derived convergent traits. In this book, George McGhee describes the ubiquity of the phenomenon of convergent evolution and connects it directly to the concept of evolutionary constraint—the idea that the number of evolutionary pathways available to life are not endless, but quite limited.

    Convergent evolution occurs on all levels, from tiny organic molecules to entire ecosystems of species. McGhee demonstrates its ubiquity in animals, both herbivore and carnivore; in plants; in ecosystems; in molecules, including DNA, proteins, and enzymes; and even in minds, describing problem-solving behavior and group behavior as the products of convergence. For each species example, he provides an abbreviated list of the major nodes in its phylogenetic classification, allowing the reader to see the evolutionary relationship of a group of species that have independently evolved a similar trait by convergent evolution. McGhee analyzes the role of functional and developmental constraints in producing convergent evolution, and considers the scientific and philosophical implications of convergent evolution for the predictability of the evolutionary process.

    • Hardcover $45.00
    • Paperback $40.00


  • The Convergent Evolution of Agriculture in Humans and Insects

    The Convergent Evolution of Agriculture in Humans and Insects

    Ted R. Schultz, Richard Gawne, and Peter N. Peregrine

    Contributors explore common elements in the evolutionary histories of both human and insect agriculture resulting from convergent evolution.

    During the past 12,000 years, agriculture originated in humans as many as twenty-three times, and during the past 65 million years, agriculture also originated in nonhuman animals at least twenty times and in insects at least fifteen times. It is much more likely that these independent origins represent similar solutions to the challenge of growing food than that they are due purely to chance. This volume seeks to identify common elements in the evolutionary histories of both human and insect agriculture that are the results of convergent evolution. The goal is to create a new, synthetic field that characterizes, quantifies, and empirically documents the evolutionary and ecological mechanisms that drive both human and nonhuman agriculture.

    The contributors report on the results of quantitative analyses comparing human and nonhuman agriculture; discuss evolutionary conflicts of interest between and among farmers and cultivars and how they interfere with efficiencies of agricultural symbiosis; describe in detail agriculture in termites, ambrosia beetles, and ants; and consider patterns of evolutionary convergence in different aspects of agriculture, comparing fungal parasites of ant agriculture with fungal parasites of human agriculture, analyzing the effects of agriculture on human anatomy, and tracing the similarities and differences between the evolution of agriculture in humans and in a single, relatively well-studied insect group, fungus-farming ants.


    Duur K. Aanen, Niels P. R. Anten, Peter H. W. Biedermann, Jacobus J. Boomsma, Laura T. Buck, Guillaume Chomicki, Tim Denham, R. Ford Denison, Dorian Q. Fuller, Richard Gawne, Nicole M. Gerardo, Thomas C. Harrington, Ana Ješovnik, Judith Korb, Chase G. Mayers, George R. McGhee, Kenneth Z. McKenna, Lumila P. Menéndez, Peter N. Peregrine, Ted R. Schultz

    • Paperback $75.00
  • Convergent Evolution in Stone-Tool Technology

    Convergent Evolution in Stone-Tool Technology

    Michael J. O'Brien, Briggs Buchanan, and Metin I. Eren

    Scholars from a variety of disciplines consider cases of convergence in lithic technology, when functional or developmental constraints result in similar forms in independent lineages.

    Hominins began using stone tools at least 2.6 million years ago, perhaps even 3.4 million years ago. Given the nearly ubiquitous use of stone tools by humans and their ancestors, the study of lithic technology offers an important line of inquiry into questions of evolution and behavior. This book examines convergence in stone tool-making, cases in which functional or developmental constraints result in similar forms in independent lineages. Identifying examples of convergence, and distinguishing convergence from divergence, refutes hypotheses that suggest physical or cultural connection between far-flung prehistoric toolmakers. Employing phylogenetic analysis and stone-tool replication, the contributors show that similarity of tools can be caused by such common constraints as the fracture properties of stone or adaptive challenges rather than such unlikely phenomena as migration of toolmakers over an Arctic ice shelf.

    ContributorsR. Alexander Bentley, Briggs Buchanan, Marcelo Cardillo, Mathieu Charbonneau, Judith Charlin, Chris Clarkson, Loren G. Davis, Metin I. Eren, Peter Hiscock, Thomas A. Jennings, Steven L. Kuhn, Daniel E. Lieberman, George R. McGhee, Alex Mackay, Michael J. O'Brien, Charlotte D. Pevny, Ceri Shipton, Ashley M. Smallwood, Heather Smith, Jayne Wilkins, Samuel C. Willis, Nicolas Zayns

    • Hardcover $50.00
  • Modeling Biology

    Modeling Biology

    Structures, Behaviors, Evolution

    Manfred D. Laubichler and Gerd B. Müller

    Experts examine new modeling strategies for the interpretation of biological data and their integration into the conceptual framework of theoretical biology, detailing approaches that focus on morphology, development, behavior, or evolution.

    Abstract and conceptual models have become an indispensable tool for analyzing the flood of highly detailed empirical data generated in recent years by advanced techniques in the biosciences. Scientists are developing new modeling strategies for analyzing data, integrating results into the conceptual framework of theoretical biology, and formulating new hypotheses. In Modeling Biology, leading scholars investigate new modeling strategies in the domains of morphology, development, behavior, and evolution. The emphasis on models in the biological sciences has been accompanied by a new focus on conceptual issues and a more complex understanding of epistemological concepts. Contributors to Modeling Biology discuss models and modeling strategies from the perspectives of philosophy, history, and applied mathematics. Individual chapters discuss specific approaches to modeling in such domains as biological form, development, and behavior. Finally, the book addresses the modeling of these properties in the context of evolution, with a particular emphasis on the emerging field of evolutionary developmental biology (or evo-devo).

    ContributorsGiorgio A. Ascoli, Chandrajit Bajaj, James P. Collins, Luciano da Fontoura Costa, Kerstin Dautenhahn, Nigel R. Franks, Scott Gilbert, Marta Ibañes Miguez, Juan Carlos Izpisúa-Belmonte, Alexander S. Klyubin, Thomas J. Koehnle, Manfred D. Laubichler, Sabina Leonelli, James A. R. Marshall, George R. McGhee Jr., Gerd B. Müller, Chrystopher L. Nehaniv, Karl J. Niklas, Lars Olsson, Eirikur Palsson, Daniel Polani, Diego Rasskin Gutman, Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, Alexei V. Samsonovich, Jeffrey C. Schank, Harry B. M. Uylings, Jaap van Pelt, Iain Werry

    • Hardcover $11.75
    • Paperback $40.00