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Arrival of the Fittest

Solving Evolution's Greatest Puzzle

Andreas Wagner

The power of Darwin’s theory of natural selection is beyond doubt, it explains how useful adaptations are preserved over generations. But evolution’s biggest mystery eluded Darwin: how those adaptations arise in the first place. Can random mutations over a 3.8 billion years be solely 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 the missing piece in Darwin’s theory. Using cutting-edge experimental and computational technologies, he has found that adaptations are in fact driven 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.

Consider the Arctic cod, a fish that lives in waters cold enough to turn the internal fluids of most organisms into ice crystals. And 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 example 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 the final puzzle piece in the mystery of life’s rich diversity.

  • Publication date: November 6, 2014
  • ISBN: 9781780745169
  • RRP: £18.99
  • Pages: 304
  • Publication date: November 6, 2014
  • ISBN: 9781780745176
  • RRP: £5.994.99
  • Pages: 304


‘Brilliantly polarises scientists’ research into the mystery of life itself’ 

Financial TimesReaders' books of the year

‘A truly revolutionary book’

Independent, best books of the year

‘Elegantly explores the cunning short cuts nature uses to achieve the seemingly impossible' 

Sunday Times, a best science book of the year

'Wagner's book is an eye-opener. As a bonus, his writing is clear and elegant, with vivid analogies and concrete examples to illustrate his key points. You'll never think about evolution in the same way again'

New Scientist

‘Arrival of the Fittest should be mandatory, corrective reading… mind-bending… tremendously exciting’

BBC Focus

‘Quite astounding… The ideas are big, and the numbers hyper-astronomical, but Wagner has a gift for explaining the abstract… elegantly’


‘The author provides a detailed argument in support of the idea that evolutionary adaptations are not random as Darwin originally proposed, but instead, adaptations obey a set of laws that maximise discovery of new molecules and molecular pathways… I already expect I’ll see this book on next year’s Royal Society Winton Prize shortlist’

Guardian Science blog

"A book of startling congruencies, insightful flashes and an artful enthusiasm that delivers knowledge from the inorganic page to our organic brains."


‘Brand new scientific insights told in sparkling literary prose… a landmark book that combines original, perhaps revolutionary, ideas elegantly explained.’

Matt Ridley, author of Genome

Arrival of the Fittest reveals the astonishing hidden structure of evolution, long overlooked by biologists, which makes Darwin’s grand idea viable after all. At the same time, it makes life seem even richer and more remarkable than you thought. Darwin would surely have loved this book; I think you will too.’

Philip Ball, author of The Music Instinct and Critical Mass

‘Andreas Wagner is one of those rare scientists with the courage and intellect to see the real nature of evolution.’

Frank Vertosick, author of When the Air Hits Your Brain

“Wagner’s engaging and delightful book will open your eyes to the mysteries of innovation. His insights will entertain and astonish you, and they will also change the way you think.” 

Daniel E. Lieberman, Edwin M Lerner II Professor of Biological Sciences, Harvard University

Andreas Wagner

Author page

More books by Andreas Wagner

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