Building the Most Complex Structure on Earth

Building the Most Complex Structure on Earth

An Epigenetic Narrative of Development and Evolution of Animals

1st Edition - April 1, 2013
This is the Latest Edition
  • Author: Nelson Cabej
  • Hardcover ISBN: 9780124016675
  • eBook ISBN: 9780124017290

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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

  • Dedication


    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


Product details

  • No. of pages: 308
  • Language: English
  • Copyright: © Elsevier 2013
  • Published: April 1, 2013
  • Imprint: Elsevier
  • Hardcover ISBN: 9780124016675
  • eBook ISBN: 9780124017290
  • 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