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Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo Hardcover – April 17, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0393060164 ISBN-10: 0393060160 Edition: 1st

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"Every animal form is the product of two processes--development from an egg and evolution from its ancestors," writes Sean B. Carroll in his introduction to Endless Forms Most Beautiful. The new science of "evo devo"--or evolutionary developmental biology--examines the relationships between those two processes, embryonic development and evolutionary changes, despite their radically different time scales. Carroll first offers a recap of how genes express themselves in a growing embryo, then peers into the life histories of real-life examples to explain how those genes have changed (or not changed) over millions of years of evolution. Paraphrasing Thomas Huxley, he asks us to consider evolution and development as two sides of the same coin.
We may marvel at the process of an egg becoming an adult, but we accept it as an everyday fact. It is merely then a lack of imagination to fail to grasp how changes in this process that assimilated over long periods of time, far longer than the span of human experience, shape life's diversity."
The book's second half is where Carroll really gets at the meat of evo devo, explaining how regulatory genes control such mysteries as individual and population changes in butterfly's spots, jaguar fur, and hominid skulls. Evo devo is one of the hottest areas of study in 21st-century biology, and Carroll's outline of the field is a great place to start understanding it. --Therese Littleton

From Publishers Weekly

Cobb County textbook stickers aside, evolutionary natural selection offers a pretty straightforward explanation for the forward march of species through history; a mutation that better equips a given organism to survive is passed along to its heirs, becoming more common as successive generations flourish. The actual process by which mutations happen, however, was far more mysterious until scientists turned to the study of evolutionary development (known by the somewhat unfortunate moniker "Evo Devo"). One such scientist is Carroll, a genetics professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, who guides us along the broad contours of development ("the process through which a single-celled egg gives rise to a complex, multibillion-celled animal") and the ways in which its study sheds light on the underlying mechanisms of evolution. He explains in concrete terms how small changes in a species's genetic code of a given species can lead to dramatic differences in physiology is the "missing piece" of evolutionary theory, Carroll argues. The book is as much a salvo in the continuing battles between creationists and evolutionists as it is a popularization of science, and Carroll combines clear writing with the deep knowledge gained from a lifetime of genetics research, first laying out the principles of evolutionary development and then showing us how they can explain both the progression of species in the fossil record and outliers like a six-fingered baseball pitcher. (Apr.)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (April 17, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393060160
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393060164
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #388,586 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

SEAN CARROLL is a professor of molecular biology and genetics and an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the University of Wisconsin and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He is the author of The Making of the Fittest and Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo.

Customer Reviews

This book is very well written, easy to follow and very interesting and fun.
Sruti Patoori
Endless Forms Most Beautiful the ancient origin of the genes for building all sorts of animals, very similar sets of tool kit proteins was entirely unexpected.
R. M. Williams
This book provides an interesting discussion of the concept of Evo Devo or evolutionary developmental biology.
Randolph Eck

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

153 of 158 people found the following review helpful By David B Richman on July 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Classical experimental and comparative embryology is a field that has fallen on hard times until recently. When I attended the University of Arizona there was a full blown course in embryology, both descriptive and experimental. By the time I was a graduate student at the same institution the course had been rolled into Organismic Biology in which all of embryology was loaded into a third of a semester. In essence developmental biology in relation to evolutionary studies gave way to molecular. Still some pretty good work went on in the background that impinged on development and was to result in the discovery of HOX genes. HOX genes (or homeotic genes) proved to be the "organizer" that was postulated by various experimental embryologists such as Spemann. Even more astoundingly they proved to be pretty much the same, no matter which organism was being studied. HOX genes in humans were essentially identical to those of insects!

This remarkable fact offers proof for the idea that all life is related and that development is a key factor in evolution. In "Endless Forms Most Beautiful" Sean B. Carroll explains the significance of such discoveries as the genetic "tool kit" (including HOX genes) on our understanding of evolution and of development. Indeed, this is a fascinating story that has already caused me to rethink some of my understanding of evolutionary principles.

We live in an amazing world in an amazing universe. The genetic material made up of DNA is a very remarkable material. What other materials could have developed huge numbers of organisms (as many as 30 million extant) that vary from zebras to sulfur bacteria? Yet that complexity appears to have developed from a very simple beginning.

Carroll was influenced by Steven J.
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82 of 85 people found the following review helpful By James Neville on July 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Ever since high school I've been looking for ways to branch out my fascination and interest from physics to biology. I have read the books and collections of essays by Stephen Gould and loved them, but nothing else has so caught my attention until THIS book.

Sean B. Carroll (there's more than one Sean Carroll out there) does a fine job showing how insect and vertebrate forms are built. More than that, he shows how they are fundamentally related WAY back in the past. Even more controversial than humans being related to chimps, we're related to, say..., lobsters!

What's cool is these conclusions are based on repeatable experimental evidence of the makeup of DNA, genes, chromosomes etc. Carroll makes a nice analogy between the vast amount of DNA strands that are NOT expressed in individual forms and the vast amount of matter in the universe that is NOT expressed as visible stars and galaxies. (OK, so maybe I STILL like physics a little more, but I'm making progress!)

Carroll nicely acknowledges Gould's contributions to the popularization of better public understanding of evolution (e.g., Wonderful Life) and further extends the discussion of Darwin. Trying to understand life without evolution is like trying to understand the universe without gravity. But Carroll moves the discussion from anecdotes to evidence. I like that!

I hope to see MUCH more on this new field of evolutionary developmental biology. As much as I am interested in how the universe began (and where it's going), I am interested in how human beings began and where THEY might be going.
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76 of 79 people found the following review helpful By Carl Flygare on October 30, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Despite vast differences in form and function common principles coordinate animal development from a single fertilized egg. Master genes that control development are found across widely divergent species - Drosophila fruit flies and humans share a deep genetic legacy - many of the genes identified as controllers of vertebrate development were originally discovered in these flies.

Multicellular plants and animals are essentially societies of cells that vary in configuration and complexity. Darwinian evolution shaped these multitudinous forms as a result of small changes in offspring and natural selection of those best adapted to their environment. Variation arises from mutations in genes that control how cells in developing embryos behave. This tight linkage between evolution and development lies at the heart of the questions evo devo, shorthand for evolutionary developmental biology, is attempting to answer. Sean B. Carroll is perfectly positioned to explain evo devo, and his comprehensive understanding illuminates "Endless Forms Most Beautiful" The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom."

When and where genes are expressed determines how animals develop. The control regions of these genes - switches that change existing patterns of gene activity into new patterns - are crucial and a single gene can have many control regions. This flexibility underlies the fact that 95% of genes coding for proteins are similar in humans and mice. Evolution of control regions has made us human - and different from our primate ancestors.

Drosophila is utilized to explain the basic developmental tool kit shared by all animals. Carroll introduces the master Hox genes and intercellular signaling molecules such as proteins specified by hedgehog genes.
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