. "3 Are There Still New Life Forms to Be Discovered? The Diversity of Life - Why It Exists and Why It's Important." The Role of Theory in Advancing 21st-Century Biology: Catalyzing Transformative Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2008.
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The Role of Theory in Advancing 21st-Century Biology: Catalyzing Transformative Research
The diversity of biological systems extends from the molecular to the global scale and all of the levels are linked. Survival or extinction of a species and the stability of an ecosystem may depend on the level of random, neutral genetic variations that have built up in individual members of various species over time and on the balance between the size of those species’ populations and the rapidity of change in their environment. At all levels, general theories to explain and predict diversity would be a great advance: from defining the evolutionary relationship of species, to predicting the function of proteins from gene sequence, to relating the form and functions of organisms to their genomes, to predicting the stability of ecosystems from their constituent species. The vastness of the diversity and the important, but as yet undefined, role of chance and history in biological systems make the development of such theories a grand challenge indeed.