All organisms are composed of cells, but what is the definition of a cell? Can size, shape or function be used to distinguish cells from non-living biological systems such as a virus? Whatever the definition of a cell is, it can probably be contradicted by cells with unusual characteristics. For example, there are cells as long as a giraffe’s neck while others are smaller than a mitochondrion. Sometimes it is hard to know the difference between an animal and a plant cell. Despite their diversity of shapes and sizes, cells are small-most of the time. Why has natural selection favored small cells? Would it be possible for big organisms to have big cells? It would seem safe to say viruses are small, except some are quite large. In the end, this book will provide evidence that cells are difficult to characterize and define even though they are the foundation of all living things.
A. Malcolm Campbell teaches biology at Davidson College, NC. He received national and international education awards: Genetics Society of America (2013); American Association for the Advancement of Science (2012); and American Society for Cell Biology (2006). He was the founding co-editor in chief of CBE Life Sciences Education; founding director of Genome Consortium for Active Teaching (GCAT); and member of the American Society for Cell Biology governing council (2012 2014).
Christopher Paradise is professor of biology and environmental studies at Davidson College. He teaches introductory biology, ecology, entomology, and topical seminars on ecotoxicology and renewable natural resources. He also occasionally leads a study abroad program in India. His research evaluates anthropogenic factors that influence insect biodiversity at a variety of scales. His current research interests include effects of land use patterns on pollinator communities in parks.