The evolution of information storage and heredity

Eva Jablonka*, Eörs Szathmáry

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many important transitions in evolution are associated with novel ways of storing and transmitting information. The storage of information in DNA sequence, and its transmission through DNA replication, is a fundamental hereditary system in all extant organisms, but it is not the only way of storing and transmitting information, and has itself replaced, and evolved from, other systems. A system that transmits information can have limited heredity or indefinite heredity. With limited heredity, the number of different possible types is commensurate with, or below, that of the individuals. With indefinite heredity, the number of possible types greatly exceeds the number of individuals in any realistic system. Recent findings suggest that the emergence and subsequent evolution of very different hereditary systems, from autocatalytic chemical cycles to natural language, accompanied the major evolutionary transitions in the history of life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-211
Number of pages6
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1995


FundersFunder number
Hungarian National Scientific Research Fund
Hungarian Scientific Research Fund


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