Almost all evolutionary biologists, indeed all biologists, use particular features to study life. These characteristics or features used by evolutionary biologists are used in a particular way to unravel a tangled evolutionary history, document the rate of evolutionary change, or as evidence of biodiversity. "Characters" are the "data" of evolutionary biology and they can be employed differently in research providing both opportunities and limitations.

The Character Concept in Evolutionary Biology is about characters, their use, how different sorts of characters are limited, and what are appropriate methods for character analysis. Leading evolutionary biologists from around the world are contributors to this authoritative review of the "character concept." Because characters and the conception of characters are central to all studies of evolution, and because evolution is the central organizing principle of biology, this book will appeal to a wide cross-section of biologists.

Key Features

  • Focuses upon "characters" -- fundamental data for evolutionary biology
  • Covers the myriad ways in which characters are defined, described, and distinguished
  • Includes historical, morphological, molecular, behavioral, and philosophical perspectives


Evolutionary biologists, systematists, developmental biologists, theoretical biologists, historians and philosophers of science, and any other researchers who use biological characters in their researches; faculty, graduate students, and advanced undergraduate students contemplating graduate studies with interests in these and related disciplines; libraries at institutions with strong programs in these and related disciplines; and graduate seminar courses


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© 2001
Academic Press
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About the author

Günter Wagner

Affiliations and Expertise

Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, New Haven, CT U.S.A.


"...offers a variety of perspectives, sometimes clashing, on how characters are defined, identified, and used in biology." --Science, 2001

"...a book worth paying attention to. ...This is a useful book that has fulfilled Wagner's goal of summarizing information on this topic and stimulating discussion. Read it as soon as you can or risk being left behind as an area that is fundamental to all we do as systematists takes off." --Norm MacLeod, The Natural History Museum, The Palaeontological Assocation Newsletter, 2001