Biological evolution is a multilevel process and should be studied as such. A first, important step in studying evolution in this way has been the work of Peter Schuster and co-workers on RNA evolution. For RNA the genotype-phenotype mapping can be calculated explicitly. The resulting evolutionary dynamics is dominated by neutral paths, and the potential of major change by a single point mutation.
Examining whole genomes, of which about 60 are now available, we see that gene content of genomes is changing relatively rapidly: gene duplication, gene loss and gene generation is ubiquitous. In fact, it seems that point-mutations play a relatively minor role, relative to changes in gene regulation and gene content in adaptive evolution.
Large scale micro-array studies, in which the expression of every gene can be measured simultaneously, give a first glimpse of the `division of labor´ between duplicated genes. A preliminary analysis suggests that differential expression is often the primary event which allows duplicated genes to be maintained in a genome, but alternate routes also exist, most notably on the one hand the mere need of a lot of product, and on the other hand differentiation within multi-protein complexes consisting of homologous genes.
I will discuss these results in terms of multilevel evolution. in particular in terms of information integration and the alternatives of `individual based´ versus `population based´ diversity.