Motoo Kimura, as founder of the neutral theory, is uniquely placed to write this book. He first proposed the theory in 1968 to explain the unexpectedly high rate of evolutionary change and very large amount of intraspecific variability at the molecular level that had been uncovered by new techniques in molecular biology. The theory - which asserts that the great majority of evolutionary changes at the molecular level are caused not by Darwinian selection but by random drift of selectively neutral mutants - has caused controversy ever since. This book is the first comprehensive treatment of this subject and the author synthesises a wealth of material - ranging from a historical perspective, through recent molecular discoveries, to sophisticated mathematical arguments - all presented in a most lucid manner.
Preface; Introduction; 1. From Lamarck to population genetics; 2. Overdevelopment of the synthetic theory and the proposal of the neutral theory; 3. The neutral mutation-random drift hypothesis as an evolutionary paradigm; 4. Molecular evolutionary rates contrasted with phenotypic evolutionary rates; 5. Some features of molecular evolution; 6. Definition, types and action of natural selection; 7. Molecular structure, selective constraint and the rate of evolution; 8. Population genetics at the molecular level; 9. Maintenance of genetic variability at the molecular level; 10. Summary and conclusion; References; Indexes.