Molecular Evolution Activities

Documents on Molecular Evolution

Profiles-Walter Fitch

Walter Fitch (1929-) is a Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at University of California, Irvine, were he served as Chairman of the department from 1990-1995. He received his Ph.D. in comparative biochemistry from the University of California, Berkeley in 1958. Before moving to Irvine, he was a professor at the University of Wisconsin from 1962-1968, as well as UCLA from 1986-1989. Fitch was instrumental in the founding of the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution as well as its governing board, the Society for the Study for Molecular Biology and Evolution, in 1982. In 1992, after proposing that membership in the society be extended to all subscribers of the journal, he became its first President.

For most of the past 35 years, he has been developing and improving methods to collect molecular sequence data from a wide variety of species and then infer evolutionary relationships and ancestral sequences from them. Fitch gained fame in the 1960s and 1970s for his efforts to locate molecular homology and to develop evolutionary trees based solely on molecular data. Two of his papers from this period have been designated "Citation Classics." His current research focuses on how to determine the value of a given nucleotide position in reconstructing phylogenies, especially in situations where the site may vary widely in some taxa, but not in others. Additionally, he has published several articles on the evolution of HIV and the influenza virus.

Fitch is the author of over 200 publications, many of which have been highly influential in the field of molecular evolution. Along with Francisco Ayala and others, he has organized several National Academy of Sciences colloquia (and edited the resulting books) that seek to document the development of evolutionary biology in the half-century after the neo-Darwinan "evolutionary synthesis." These include: Tempo and Mode in Evolution: Genetics and Paleontology 50 years After Simpson (1995) and Variation and Evolution in Plants and Microorganisms: Toward a New Synthesis 50 Years After Stebbins (2000). He is a member of numerous organizations including the American Philosophical Society, the NAS, and the Human Genome Organization. In May 2001, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from North Carolina State University.

Selected Bibliography:

  • Fitch, Walter M., "Improved Method for Testing for Evolutionary Homology," J. Mol. Biol. 16, 9-16 (1966).
  • Fitch, Walter M. and Margoliash, E., "The Construction of Phylogenetic Trees-- A Generally Applicable Method Utilizing Estimates of the Mutation Distance Obtained from Cytochrome c Sequences," Science l55, 279-284 (l967).
  • Fitch, Walter M. and Margoliash, E., "A Method for Estimating the Number of Invariant Amino Acid Coding Positions in a Gene Using Cytochrome c as a Model Case," Biochem. Gen. l, 65-7l (l967).
  • Fitch, Walter M., "Evidence Suggesting a Non-Random Character to Nucleotide Replacements in Naturally Occurring Mutations," J. Mol. Biol. 26, 499-507 (l967).
  • Margoliash, E. and Fitch, Walter M., "Evolutionary Variability of Cytochrome c Primary Structures," N. Y. Acad. Sci. 151, 359-38l (l968).
  • Fitch, Walter M. and Margoliash, E., "The Construction of Phylogenetic Trees. II. How Well Do They Reflect Past History?," Brookhaven Symp. in Biol. 2l, 2l7-242 (l968).
  • Fitch, Walter M. and Neel, J. V., "The Phylogenetic Relationships of Some Indian Tribes of Central and South America," Am. J. Human Genetics 2l, 384-397 (l969).
  • Fitch, Walter M., "Further Improvements in the Method for Testing for Evolutionary Homology Among Proteins," J. Mol. Biol. 49, l-l4 (l970).
  • Fitch, Walter M., "Distinguishing Homologous From Analogous Proteins," Syst. Zool. l9, 99-113 (l970).
  • Fitch, Walter M. and Margoliash, E., "The Usefulness of Amino Acid and Nucleotide Sequences in Evolutionary Studies," Evolutionary Biology, Vol. IV, Steere, Dobzhansky and Hecht, eds., 67-109 (1970).
  • Fitch, Walter M. and Markowitz, E., "An Improved Method for Determining Codon Variability in a Gene and Its Application to the Rate of fixations of Mutations in Evolution," Bioch. Gen. 4, 579-593 (1970).
  • Fitch, Walter M., "Toward defining the course of evolution: minimum change for a specific tree topology," Systematic Zoology 20: 406-416 (1971).
  • Fitch, Walter M., "Does the Fixation of Neutral Mutations Form a Significant Part of Observed Evolution in Proteins?," Brookhaven Symp. in Biol. 23, l86-2l6 (l972).
  • Fitch, Walter M., "Are Human Hemoglobin Variants Distributed Randomly Among the Positions?," J. Mol. Evol. 2, 181-186 (1973).
  • Fitch, Walter M., "Aspects of Molecular Evolution," Ann. Rev. Genetics 7, 343-380 (1973).
  • Wu, T.T., Fitch, Walter M. and Margoliash, E., "The Information Content of Protein Amino Acid Sequences." Ann. Rev. Biochem. 43, 539-556 (1974).
  • Langley, C. H. and Fitch, Walter M., "An Examination of the Constancy of the Rate of Molecular Evolution," J. Mol. Evol. 3, 161-177 (1974).
  • Fitch, Walter M. and Farris, J. S. "Evolutionary Trees with Minimum Nucleotide Replacements from Amino Acid Sequences." J. Mol. Evol., 3, 263-278 (1974).
  • Fitch, Walter M., "Evolutionary Rates in Proteins and the Cost of Natural Selection: Implications for Neutral Mutations," in F. M. Salzano, ed. The Role of Natural Selection in Human Evolution (Amsterdam, 1975), pp. 43-56.
  • Fitch, Walter M., "An Evaluation of Molecular Evolutionary Clocks," in F. J. Ayala, ed. Molecular Study of Biological Evolution (Sunderland, Mass: Sinauer Associates, 1976), pp. l60-l78.
  • Fitch, Walter M. and Langley, C. H., "Protein Evolution and the Molecular Clock," Fed. Proc., 35, 2092-2097 (l976).
  • Fitch, Walter M. and Langley, C. H., "Evolutionary Rates in Proteins, Neutral Mutations and the Molecular clock," in M. Goodman and R. E. Tashian, eds. Molecular Anthropology (New York: Plenum Press, 1976), pp. 197-219.
  • Fitch, Walter M., "Challenges to Darwinism Since the Last Centennial and the Impact of Molecular Studies," Evolution, 36, 1133-1143 (1982).
  • Gray, G. and Fitch, Walter M., "Evolution of Antibiotic Resistance Genes: The DNA Sequence of a Kanamycin Resistance Gene from Staphylococcus aureus," Mol. Biol. & Evol., 1, 57-66 (1983).
  • Fitch, Walter M., "Cladistic and Other Methods: Problems, Pitfalls and Potentials," in T. Duncan, T. F. Steussy, Eds., Cladistics: Perspectives on the Reconstruction of Evolutionary History (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1984), pp. 221-252.
  • Fitch, W.M. and Atchley, W.R. "Evolution in inbred strains of mice appears rapid," Science 228: 1169-1175 (1985).
  • Fitch, Walter M., "Unresolved Problems in DNA Sequence Analysis," in M. Miura ed. Lectures on Mathematics in the Life Sciences (Providence, RI: American Mathematical Society, 1986), pp. 1-18.
  • Fitch, W.M., Leiter, J.M.E., Li, X. and Palese, P., "Positive Darwinian Evolution in Human Influenza A Viruses," PNAS, 88, 4270-4274 (1991).
  • Nichol, S.T., Rowe, J.E. and Fitch, W.M., "Punctuated Equilibrium and Positive Darwinian Evolution in Vesicular Stomatitis Virus.," PNAS. 90, 10424- 10428 (1993).
  • Fitch, W.M. and Ayala, F.J., "The Superoxide Dismutase Molecular Clock Revisited." PNAS 91, 6802-6807 (1994).
  • Fitch, Walter M. and Ayala, Francisco J., "Molecular Clocks Are Not as Bad as You Think," in D.M. Fambrough, ed.,Molecular Evolution of Physiological Processes, (New York: Rockefeller Univ. Press, 1984) pp. 3-12.
  • Miyamoto, Michael M. and Fitch, Walter M. "Testing the Covarion Hypothesis of Molecular Evolution," Mol. Biol. Evol. 12, 503-513 (1995).
  • Fitch, Walter M. "Uses for Evolutionary Trees." Phil. Trans. Royal Society LondonB 349, 93-102 (1995).
  • Fitch, Walter M. "The Variety of Human Virus Evolution." Mol. Phylogen. and Evolution. 5, 247-258 (1996).
  • Bush, Robin M., Fitch, Walter M., Smith, Catherine B. and Cox, Nancy J. "Predicting influenza evolution: the impact of terminal and egg-adapted mutations." International Congress Series, 345, xxx-xxx, (2001).

This page was written by Jay Aronson on September 22, 2001