Long-term Sabbatical

Sex, cells: an evolutionary inquiry into sexual reproduction

PI(s): John M Logsdon (University of Iowa)
Start Date: 1-Nov-2009
End Date: 31-Jul-2010

Sex has been deemed the "queen of problems in evolutionary biology" and questions of the origin, evolution and maintenance of sex have long captured the attention of biologists. In their seminal books published in the 1970s and 1980s Maynard Smith, Williams and Bell provided critical intellectual roadmaps and motivation for considering such questions. Indeed, in the past 30-plus years substantial effort has been directed at the problem--although progress has been made, many outstanding questions persist. Notably, no significant book on this topic has appeared since Michod & Levin's 1987 edited volume, "The Evolution of Sex: An Examination of Current Ideas". The purpose of this sabbatical is to write a book that provides an up-to-date summary and synthesis of the evolutionary biology of sex. By reference to classic and recent research, I will consider possible connections and clear distinctions regarding issues of the origin, evolution and maintenance of sex. I will illustrate
the key innovations involved in sexual reproduction with compelling examples from diverse biological systems. Throughout the book, I will summarize and synthesize work ranging from mathematical theory to functional morphology to molecular interactions. This book will be written in highly accessible language making it amenable--even interesting--to a non-specialist audience while keeping the content scientifically rigorous. Indeed, I will work from a premise that the evolutionary biology of sex is relevant to a wide public audience; with the manifold implications of sex in human behavior and health, the subject has clear potential for broad appeal.