Top 2016 Evolution Books

These are my top twenty picks for evolution books published in 2016. They span the topics range from the scientific basis of evolution to monographs on specific evolutionary phenomena (e.g. reticulate evolution) to higher evolutionary theory. YMMV, and they are not ranked in any ways. Included is the text blurb; personal review available on request!

Want more book recommendations? Check out the other top 2016 book lists: Zoology; Invertebrates; Arthropods; Vertebrates; Humans and Primates; Phylogenetics; Ecology; Geology; Historical Geology; Palaeontology; Botany; Environmental; Climate Change; History; Philosophy.


  • With Adaptation in Metapopulations, Michael J. Wade explores a key component of a new understanding of evolution: interaction. Synthesizing decades of work in the lab and in the field in a book both empirically grounded and underpinned by a strong conceptual framework, Wade looks at the role of interaction across scales from gene selection to selection at the level of individuals, kin, and groups. In so doing, he integrates molecular and organismal biology to reveal the true complexities of evolutionary dynamics from genes to metapopulations.



  • This new edition of Biogeography: An Ecological and Evolutionary Approach incorporates the exciting changes of the recent years, and presents a thoughtful exploration of the research and controversies that have transformed our understanding of the biogeography of the world. It also clearly identifies the three quite different arenas of biogeographical research: continental biogeography, island biogeography and marine biogeography. It is the only current textbook with full coverage of marine biogeography. It reveals how the patterns of life that we see today have been created by the two great Engines of the Planet – the Geological Engine, plate tectonics, which alters the conditions of life on the planet, and the Biological Engine, evolution, which responds to these changes by creating new forms and patterns of life.


  • Evolutionary Transitions to Multicellular Life: Principles and mechanisms integrates our understanding of the factors and processes underlying the evolution of multicellularity by providing several complementary perspectives (both theoretical and experimental) and using examples from various lineages in which multicellularity evolved. Recent years marked an increased interest in understanding how and why these transitions occurred, and data from various fields are providing new insights into the forces driving the several independent transitions to multicellular life as well as into the genetic and molecular basis for the evolution of this phenotype. The ultimate goal of this book is to facilitate the identification of general and unifying principles and mechanisms.


  • How does cooperation emerge among selfish individuals? When do people share resources, punish those they consider unfair, and engage in joint enterprises? These questions fascinate philosophers, biologists, and economists alike, for the “invisible hand” that should turn selfish efforts into public benefit is not always at work. The Calculus of Selfishness looks at social dilemmas where cooperative motivations are subverted and self-interest becomes self-defeating. Karl Sigmund, a pioneer in evolutionary game theory, uses simple and well-known game theory models to examine the foundations of collective action and the effects of reciprocity and reputation.


  • Plant Variation and Evolution

    by David Briggs [Cambridge University Press, Paperback]
    Price: $47.19 - - - - - CDN$ 62.95

  • Evolution is just a theory, isn’t it? What is a scientific theory anyway? Don’t scientists prove things? What is the difference between a fact, a hypothesis and a theory in science? How does scientific thinking differ from religious thinking? Why are most leading scientists atheists? Are science and religion compatible? Why are there so many different religious beliefs but only one science? What is the evidence for evolution? Why does evolution occur? If you are interested in any of these questions and have some knowledge of biology, How Science Works: Evolution: The Nature of Science & The Science of Nature is for you.


  • We are in the midst of a biological revolution. Molecular tools are now providing new means of critically testing hypotheses and models of microevolution in populations of wild, cultivated, weedy and feral plants. They are also offering the opportunity for significant progress in the investigation of long-term evolution of flowering plants, as part of molecular phylogenetic studies of the Tree of Life. This long-awaited fourth edition of Plant Variation and Evolution, fully revised by David Briggs, reflects new insights provided by molecular investigations and advances in computer science. Briggs considers the implications of these for our understanding of the evolution of flowering plants, as well as the potential for future advances. Numerous new sections on important topics such as the evolutionary impact of human activities, taxonomic challenges, gene flow and distribution, hybridisation, speciation and extinction, conservation and the molecular genetic basis of breeding systems will ensure that this remains a classic text for both undergraduate and graduate students in the field.


  • Eco-evolutionary Dynamics

    by Andrew P. Hendry [Princeton University Press, Hardcover]
    Price: $50.67 - - - - - CDN$ 67.25

  • In Darwinian Agriculture: How Understanding Evolution Can Improve Agriculture, R. Ford Denison shows how both biotechnology and traditional plant breeding can use Darwinian insights to identify promising routes for crop genetic improvement and avoid costly dead ends. Denison explains why plant traits that have been genetically optimized by individual selection–such as photosynthesis and drought tolerance–are bad candidates for genetic improvement. Traits like plant height and leaf angle, which determine the collective performance of plant communities, offer more room for improvement. Agriculturalists can also benefit from more sophisticated comparisons among natural communities and from the study of wild species in the landscapes where they evolved.


  • In Eco-Evolutionary Dynamics, Andrew Hendry covers key aspects of evolution, ecology, and their interactions. Topics range from natural selection, adaptive divergence, ecological speciation, and gene flow to population and community dynamics, ecosystem function, plasticity, and genomics. Hendry evaluates conceptual and methodological approaches, and draws on empirical data from natural populations–including those in human-disturbed environments–to tackle a number of classic and emerging research questions. He also discusses exciting new directions for future research at the intersection of ecology and evolution.


  • On the Origin of Autonomy: A New Look at the Major Transitions in Evolution examines important questions in evolutionary biology, including how evolutionary innovations are generated and the origin of new constructional principles and new organs. It also scrutinizes the beginning of the major evolutionary transitions.


  • Evolutionary Theory: A Hierarchical Perspective

    by Niles Eldredge [University of Chicago Press, Paperback]
    Price: $24.00 - - - - - CDN$ 37.36

  • The Rasputin Effect: When Commensals and Symbionts Become Parasitic focuses on those instances when benign and even beneficial relationships between microbes and their hosts opportunistically change and become detrimental toward the host. It examines the triggering events which can factor into these changes, such as reduction in the host’s capacity for mounting an effective defensive response due to nutritional deprivation, coinfections and seemingly subtle environmental influences like the amounts of sunlight, temperature, and either water or air quality. The effects of environmental changes can be compounded when they necessitate a physical relocation of species, in turn changing the probability of encounter between microbe and host. The change also can result when pathogens, including virus species, either have modified the opportunist or attacked the host’s protective natural microflora. The authors discuss these opportunistic interactions and assess their outcomes in both aquatic as well as terrestrial ecosystems, highlighting the impact on plant, invertebrate and vertebrate hosts.


  • The natural world is infinitely complex and hierarchically structured, with smaller units forming the components of progressively larger systems: molecules make up cells, cells comprise tissues and organs that are, in turn, parts of individual organisms, which are united into populations and integrated into yet more encompassing ecosystems. In the face of such awe-inspiring complexity, there is a need for a comprehensive, non-reductionist evolutionary theory. Having emerged at the crossroads of paleobiology, genetics, and developmental biology, the hierarchical approach to evolution provides a unifying perspective on the natural world and offers an operational framework for scientists seeking to understand the way complex biological systems work and evolve.


  • Evolutionary Biology: Convergent Evolution, Evolution of Complex Traits, Concepts and Methods presents selected contributions to the 19th Evolutionary Biology Meeting, which took place in September 2015 in Marseille.


  • Retrograde Evolution During Major Extinction Crises is the first book of its kind, providing in-depth analysis of the retrograde evolution occurring during major extinction periods. The text offers a non-strictly adaptative explanation of repetition of phyla after the major extinctions, utilizing a study of seven phylogenetically distinct groups. This opens a new experimental field in evolutionary biology with the possibility of reconstructing ancestral forms in lab by applying artificial stresses.


  • Written for non-experts, Reticulate Evolution: Symbiogenesis, Lateral Gene Transfer, Hybridization and Infectious Heredity introduces the mechanisms that underlie reticulate evolution. Chapters are either accompanied with glossaries that explain new terminology or timelines that position pioneering scholars and their major discoveries in their historical contexts. The contributing authors outline the history and original context of discovery of symbiosis, symbiogenesis, lateral gene transfer, hybridization or divergence with gene flow and infectious heredity. By applying key insights from the areas of molecular (phylo)genetics, microbiology, virology, ecology, systematics, immunology, epidemiology and computational science, they demonstrate how reticulate evolution impacts successful survival, fitness and speciation.


  • Evolution (Second Edition)

    by Carl T. Bergstrom [W. W. Norton & Company, Hardcover]
    Price: $89.40 - - - - - CDN$ 85.21

  • Evolution presents foundational concepts through a contemporary framework of population genetics and phylogenetics that is enriched by current research and stunning art. In every chapter, new critical thinking questions and expanded end-of-chapter problems emphasizing data interpretation reinforce the Second Edition’s focus on helping students think like evolutionary biologists.


  • All organisms and species are transitory, yet life endures. The origin, extinction, and evolution of species–interconnected in the web of life as “eternal ephemera”–are the concern of evolutionary biology. In Eternal Ephemera, renowned paleontologist Niles Eldredge follows leading thinkers as they have wrestled for more than two hundred years with the eternal skein of life composed of ephemeral beings, revitalizing evolutionary science with their own, more resilient findings.


  • Chance in Evolution

    by Grant Ramsey [University of Chicago Press, Paperback]
    Price: $33.56 - - - - - CDN$ 46.67

  • Humans, however much we would care to think otherwise, do not represent the fated pinnacle of ape evolution. The diversity of life, from single-celled organisms to multicellular animals and plants, is the result of a long, complex, and highly chancy history. But how profoundly has chance shaped life on earth? And what, precisely, do we mean by chance? Bringing together biologists, philosophers of science, and historians of science, Chance in Evolution is the first book to untangle the far-reaching effects of chance, contingency, and randomness on the evolution of life.


  • Evolution: A Visual Record

    by Robert Clark [Phaidon Press, Hardcover]
    Price: $17.42 - - - - - CDN$ 32.26

  • Evidence of evolution is everywhere. Through 200 revelatory images, award-winning photographer Robert Clark makes one of the most important foundations of science clear and exciting to everyone. Evolution: A Visual Record transports readers from the near-mystical(human ancestors) to the historic (the famous ‘finches’ Darwin collected on the Galapagos Islands that spurred his theory); the recently understood (the link between dinosaurs and modern birds) to the simply astonishing.


  • The Holobiont Imperative: Perspectives from Early Emerging Animals examines how the growing knowledge of the huge range of animal-bacterial interactions, whether in shared ecosystems or intimate symbioses, is fundamentally altering our understanding of animal biology. Individuals from simple invertebrates to human are not solitary, homogenous entities but consist of complex communities of many species that likely evolved during a billion years of coexistence. Defining the individual microbe-host conversations in these consortia, is a challenging but necessary step on the path to understanding the function of the associations as a whole. The hologenome theory of evolution considers the holobiont with its hologenome as a unit of selection in evolution. This new view may have profound impact on understanding a strictly microbe/symbiont-dependent life style and its evolutionary consequences. It may also affect the way how we approach complex environmental diseases from corals (coral bleaching) to human (inflammatory bowel disease etc). The book is written for scientists as well as medically interested persons in the field of immunobiology, microbiology, evolutionary biology, evolutionary medicine and corals.


    Want more book recommendations? Check out the other top 2016 book lists: Zoology; Invertebrates; Arthropods; Vertebrates; Humans and Primates; Phylogenetics; Ecology; Geology; Historical Geology; Palaeontology; Botany; Environmental; Climate Change; History; Philosophy.

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