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COSAM Professor’s Latest Book Summarizes New Ideas on Evolution

Published: 05/14/2019

By: Carla Nelson

Dr. Geoff Hill, a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, has recently released his latest book titled “Mitonuclear Ecology.”

The sixth published book throughout his career, “Mitonuclear Ecology” was written for use by fellow biologists and summarizes new ideas about the evolution of complex life on earth. It is the first book to examine the implications for ecology and evolution that emerge from the necessity of coevolution and coadaptation of mitochondrial and nuclear genes.

“It really centers on the evolution of mitochondria, which was the starting point for complex life,” Dr. Hill explained. “For the first two billion years of life on earth, life was stuck at a bacterial level of complexity. Life churned through two billion years at the prokaryotic level and wasn’t headed towards multicellular complexity. We would have probably never gotten to complex life, except two prokaryotic cells fused and created this new kind of cell that included a mitochondria.  A cell with a mitochondrion gave rise to the world we know.”

Dr. Hill has been a professor at Auburn University since 1993 and his research focuses on bird and copepod coloration and speciation. The book took him about a year to write, most of which was written while he was on sabbatical in Australia. Dr. Hill worked with researchers in a fruit fly genetics lab, who were interested in the topic and also gave him feedback.

“It was a way to get away from Auburn so I would have time to think about the book,” Dr. Hill said. “I was also in an outstanding academic environment.”

Dr. Hill also taught a class to Auburn students focusing on Mitonuclear Ecology, which helped structure the book. Beginning in the fall, the class will become a permanent graduate class taught in the Department of Biological Sciences.

The book, which is currently available for pre-order on Amazon.com and through Oxford University Press, has been accepted into the Oxford Series in Ecology and Evolution.

Dr. Hill said the idea behind writing “Mitonuclear Ecology” has been developing in the field of biological sciences for some time.

“It’s an idea that’s been developing in the field, not just my thinking but other people’s thinking,” he said. “Within the last decade or a little more than a decade, this idea has moved to the forefront of evolutionary biology.”

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