The role or structural criteria in transition theory: A focus on systems of interacting organisms

Gerard A.J.M. Jagers op Akkerhuis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


In a recent publication Szathmáry has updated Major Evolutionary Transitions theory to a version 2.0. The major transition theory recognises transitions based on the select use of functional criteria, notably: cooperation, competition reduction and reproduction as part of a larger unit. These criteria apply indiscriminatingly to cells forming a bee, and bees forming a hive. The possibility of suggesting different interpretations like these has caused ambiguity about the suitability of major evolutionary transitions as hallmarks for individuality or organismality. In this chapter it is suggested to deal with such ambiguity by the additional use of structural criteria when classifying transitions and resulting kinds of system. This chapter focuses on systems of interacting organisms, for which systems a decision tree is constructed that combines three different criteria to arrive at a classifi cation. The decision tree starts with the fraternal and egalitarian interactions sensu Queller, adds democratic and centralised coding, and transcends the limitations of functional criteria by invoking the structural classes of the Operator Theory. These classes are operators (which applies to all organisms), compound objects and behavioural groups. If these additional criteria are used, one can resolve ambiguities about the classifi cation of different kinds of groups of interacting organisms, such as pluricellular organisations, symbioses and groups.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEvolution and Transitions in Complexity: The Science of Hierarchical Organization in Nature
PublisherSpringer International Publishing Switzerland
ISBN (Print)9783319438023, 9783319438016
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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