Darwin's Inextricable Web

In 1859 Charles Darwin published his 'Origin of Species' and in doing so changed the way the natural world was viewed. Exactly 150 years ago he explained how species evolve and share a common descent, but noted that the pattern of relationships between organisms was an 'inextricable web' which was too difficult to disentangle. The development of new techniques, especially in genetics, now enable us to start to tease apart that web. 'Darwin's Inextricable Web'; presents the latest research, theory and speculation on the relationships of micro-organisms, fungi, plants and animals.

This book reviews the latest information on the relationships between groups of living organisms. Some of the results of studies published in the last two decades support long-established ideas but others offer radically new interpretations. Our interpretations of the relationships between animal phyla in particular have had to be completely revised, a process which is still ongoing.

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ISBN-10: 0-9533787-2-1
ISBN-13: 978-0-9533787-2-2


  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Understanding life: historical background and how genetics has changed our view of evolution, and how it may mislead
  • 3. The stirrings of life: theories on the origins of life and the evolution of bacteria
  • 4. Slime and spores: eukaryotes, protists and the evolution of fungi and algae
  • 5. The green invasion: the evolution of land plants
  • 6. The origins of animals: from the earliest multicellular animals to jellyfish
  • 7. The world of worms: a range of early 'worms' and the confusions they create
  • 8. The strange case of the mollusc: from snails to squids, and the intriguing possibility that 300 years ago Cuvier was right and brachiopods really are molluscs (or mollusc relatives)
  • 9. Ecdysozoa - the skin-shedding worms
  • 10. An incredible diversity of forms: the arthropods
  • 11. Deuterostomes - the special case 'worms': how worms give rise to sea urchins, starfish and swimming worms
  • 12. Tetrapods - the land vertebrates
  • 13. Human origins
  • 14. General trends and future speculations


New Species

Partula snails


Biodiversity assessments

Giant tortoises


Invertebrate Red Listing


Justin Gerlach by e-mail