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Building the Most Complex Structure on Earth - 1st Edition - ISBN: 9780124016675, 9780124017290

Building the Most Complex Structure on Earth

1st Edition

An Epigenetic Narrative of Development and Evolution of Animals

Author: Nelson Cabej
Hardcover ISBN: 9780124016675
eBook ISBN: 9780124017290
Imprint: Elsevier
Published Date: 1st April 2013
Page Count: 308
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Building the Most Complex Structure on Earth provides readers with a basic biological education an easy and understandable introduction into a new epigenetic theory of development and evolution. This is a novel theory that describes the epigenetic mechanisms of the development and evolution of animals and explains the colossal evolution and diversification of animals from a new post-genetic perspective. Modern biology has demonstrated the existence of a common genetic toolkit in the animal kingdom, but neither the number of genes nor the evolution of new genes is responsible for the development and evolution of animals. The failure to understand how the same genetic toolkit is used to produce millions of widely different animal forms remains a perplexing conundrum in modern biology. The novel theory shows that the development and evolution of the animal kingdom are functions of epigenetic mechanisms, which are the competent users of the genetic toolkit.

Key Features

  • Provides a comprehensive view of the epigenetic aspects of reproduction, development, and evolution.
  • Highly rigorous, but simple enough for readers with only a basic knowledge of biology.


Students and teachers of life sciences, medicine, veterinary, psychology, botany.

Table of Contents



1. Control Systems in the Living World

The Nature of Living Systems

The Principle of Entropy and Erosion of Material Structures

What Does It Take to Build Improbable Structures?


Control Systems

The Control System in Unicellulars

The Structure of the Cytoskeleton

Centrosomes as Microtubule-Organizing Centers

Can the Cytoskeleton Compute?

The Control System in Plants

The Plant Bauplan and Control System

Hormones in the Plant Control System

Searching for the Plant Control System

Searching for the Controller of the Control System in Plants


2. Epigenetics of Reproduction in Animals

Newmann’s Machines: Living Organisms Defy Human Imagination

Reproduction in Unicellulars

Reproduction in Single-Celled Prokaryotes

Asexual Reproduction

Reproduction in Single-Celled Eukaryotes

Asexual Reproduction in Ciliates

Reproduction in Fungi

Asexual Reproduction in Fungi

Sexual Reproduction in Yeasts

Sexual Reproduction in Green Algae (Chlorophyta)

Asexual Reproduction in Green Algae

Sexual Reproduction

Asexual Reproduction in Metazoans

Sexual Reproduction in Sponges

Reproduction in Eumetazoans

Asexual Reproduction in Eumetazoans

Sexual Reproduction—the Prevalent Mode of Reproduction of Multicellulars

Production of Egg Cells—Oogenesis

Hermaphroditism in Metazoans

Sex Evolution and Sex Determination in Eumetazoans

Epigenetic Determination of the Primary Sex in Vertebrates

A Single Genetic Toolkit, but Breathtaking Diversity of Forms

A User of the Genetic Toolkit

Epigenetic Programming of Gene Expression in the Egg

Deposition of Maternal Determinants in the Egg

Regulation of the Length of Microtubules—Key to Transport of Maternal Determinants in the Oocyte

The Nervous System Regulates “At Will” the Length of Microtubules


3. Epigenetic Control of Animal Development

Fertilization—Fusion of the Egg and Sperm Cell

Genomic Restoration in the Zygote

Epigenetic Regulation of Cell Differentiation

Epigenetic Determination of Early Development—The Embryonic Genome Is Still Dormant

Epigenetic Control of Early Development

The Mid-Blastula or Maternal–Embryonic Transition

Gastrulation—Formation of Embryonic Layers

Embryonic Induction

Formation of Embryonic Germ Layers

Formation of the Neural Tube

The Primary Neurulation

The Phylotypic Stage

Formation of the Neural Crest

Epigenetic Control of Postphylotypic Development in Animals

Apoptosis in Invertebrates

Left–Right Asymmetry

Myogenesis in Invertebrates

Myogenesis in Vertebrates

Development of the Heart

Vasculogenesis and Angiogenesis

Formation of the Gastrointestinal Tract



Neural Control of Primary Sex Determination

Osteogenesis—Formation of Skeletal Bones

How Animals Know When to Stop Growing—The Body Size Set Point

How Long Animals Live—An Epigenetic Decision

Metamorphosis: The Same Organism Produces Two Radically Different Body Plans


4. Living and Adapting to Its Own Habitat

Adaptation—Surviving in a Changing Environment

Neural Control of Gene Expression

Making Environmental Signals Intelligible to Genes

Restricting Gene Expression to Relevant Cells Alone: Binary Neural Control of Gene Expression

The Source of Information for Selecting Sites of Histone Modification

From Where Does the Epigenetic Information for DNA Methylation Come?

Clocks and Calendars for Timing Phenotypic Changes

Discrete Phenotypic Changes Are Designed by the Brain

Transgenerational Developmental Plasticity—Insights into the Nature of Evolutionary Morphological Change

Where Is the Epigenetic Information for TDPs Generated?

Epigenetics of Behavior and Social Attachment in Animals


5. Rise of the Animal Kingdom and Epigenetic Mechanisms of Evolution

The Prelude to the Cambrian Burst of Animal Diversity

Cambrian Explosion

Is the Cambrian Explosion a Fact or a Paleontological Artifact?

The Cambrian Explosion Conundrum

Presumed External Factors Involved in the Cambrian Explosion

Current Hypotheses of Organic Evolution

The Modern Synthesis—The neoDarwinian Hypothesis of Evolution

Other Hypotheses on Evolution

The Control System Hypothesis of Evolution

The Evolution of the Integrated Control System in Metazoans

Evolution of the Integrated Control System and the Cambrian Explosion

Other Insights into the Possible Role of the Centralized Nervous System in the Cambrian Diversification

Centralization of the Nervous System and Evolution of the Animal Complexity in Bilaterians

On the Generation of Epigenetic Information in the CNS

The Antientropic Demon and the Advent of Cambrian Biota—Fine-Tuning Gene Expression



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© Elsevier 2013
1st April 2013
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About the Author

Nelson Cabej

Dr. Nelson R. Cabej is the author of Epigenetic Principles Of Evolution (Elsevier, 2011) and Building The Most Complex Structure On Earth (Elsevier, 2013), in which he examines the role of epigenetic mechanisms in organismal evolution. He has published more than 40 scientific articles and 10 books in English and his native language of Albanian on evolutionary biology, epigenetics, and developmental biology. Dr. Cabej earned his Ph.D. in biology at the University of Tirana, Albania, and presently serves as a researcher in the Department of Biology at the university. He has previously taught biology at William Paterson College, Wayne, N.J, USA.

Affiliations and Expertise

Department of Biology, University of Tirana, Tirana, Albania


"Nelson R. Cabej has written an ambitious and well-researched text on non-genetic control mechanisms in biology. The focus is on how living structures are built and maintained at every level from the intracellular to the architectural…It's designed as a stand-alone textbook for an advanced undergraduate or graduate course in epigenetics, or a book of interest to researchers."--Reference & Research Book News, October 2013

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