The Arrival of the Fittest by Andreas Wagner

The power of Darwin’s theory of natural selection is beyond doubt, explaining how useful adaptations are preserved over generations. But the biggest mystery about evolution eluded him: how those adaptations arise in the first place. Can random mutations over a mere 3.8 billion years solely be responsible for wings, eyeballs, knees, photosynthesis, and the rest of nature’s creative marvels? And by calling these mutations ‘random’, are we not just admitting our own ignorance? What if we could now uncover the wellspring of all biological innovation?

Renowned evolutionary biologist Andreas Wagner ( presents what he believes is the missing piece in Darwin’s theory. Using cutting-edge experimental and computational technologies, he has found that adaptations are not just driven by chance, but by a set of laws that allow nature to discover new molecules and mechanisms in a fraction of the time that random variation would take. An example is the Arctic cod, a fish that lives in waters cold enough to turn the internal fluids of most organisms into ice crystals. Yet the Arctic cod survives by producing ‘natural anti-freeze’, proteins that lower the freezing temperature of its body fluids. The invention of those proteins is an archetypal case of nature’s enormous powers of creativity. Meticulously researched, carefully argued, and full of fascinating examples from the animal kingdom,  Arrival of the Fittest  offers up a solution to the mystery of life’s rich diversity.

To hear Wagner explain some of his ideas on evolution listen to the Radio 4 ‘Start the Week’ episode of 1 December 2014 at

Andreas Wagner is Professor in the Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies at the University of Zurich.

304 pages in Oneworld Publications

First published 6 November 2014

ISBN 978-1780745169

Andreas Wagner

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