Evolution of Individuality: A Case Study in the Volvocine Green Algae

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All disciplines must define their basic units and core processes. In evolutionary biology, the core process is natural selection and the basic unit of selection and adaptation is the individual. To operationalize the theory of natural selection we must count individuals, as they are the bearers of fitness. While canonical individuals have often been taken to be multicellular organisms, the hierarchy of life shows that new kinds of individuals have evolved. A variety of criteria have been used to define biological individuality. Some criteria rely on the presence/absence of a particular property while others advocate an approach that reflects the process of natural selection. The plethora of approaches to classifying individuality has resulted in confusion regarding how to study individuality in a given taxon.
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