About this Research Topic
METs have been categorized as fusions of previously independent individuals into an integrated, higher order individual, and/or as a fundamental change in how information is stored and transmitted across individuals. However, the ecological context in which such changes occurred or the effects they had on entire ecosystems were often not considered. Yet, it is precisely such changes that implicitly first drew attention to these events. We now have far more insight into the timing of METs and what was happening in the environment preceding and succeeding these transitions. How does this alter our understanding of the key evolutionary events throughout Earth’s history?
There is also ongoing active research concerning how social evolution can proceed. Many proposed METs either explicitly or implicitly invoke a fundamental change in the social interactions between individuals. In such a context, the processes underlying them have been alternatively argued to represent variations of kin selection, group selection or game theoretic outcomes. The validity and universality of this variety of possible evolutionary processes offers a rich venue for continued discussion and debate in the context of METs.
The scope of this Research Topic is the what, when, why, and how of METs. Themes include:
• What are the defining features of a MET, and what events in evolutionary history do or do not meet these criteria?
• Why did some METs not happen earlier? Did multiple events or innovations have to synergistically co-occur for a MET to happen?
• What processes of natural selection (e.g., intergenomic, individual, kin, or group level selection) create or are created by METs?
• As individual complexity increases, how is information exchanged, stored or transmitted across generations and does this facilitate METs?
• Are there major events in evolutionary history that, to date, have been overlooked or still lack satisfactorily plausible explanations?
• Are humans a current, ongoing MET and, if so, why? Are future METs still possible?
Contributions could address any or all these questions, and in respect to one or more METs.
Keywords: Major evolutionary transition, origin of life, kin selection, group selection, information, individuality, inheritance, cooperation, ecological impacts
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.