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The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution Reprint Edition

90 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0393330519
ISBN-10: 0393330516
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Picking up where scientists like Richard Dawkins have left off, Carroll, a professor of genetics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison (Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo-Devo), has written a fast-paced look at how DNA demonstrates the evolutionary process. Natural selection eliminates harmful changes and embraces beneficial ones, and each change leaves its signature on a species' DNA codes. For example, the Antarctic ice fish today has no red blood cells; yet a fossilized gene for hemoglobin remains in its DNA, showing that the fish has adapted over 55 million years by losing the red blood cells that thicken blood and make it harder to pump in extreme cold. The fish has developed other features that allow it to absorb and circulate blood without hemoglobin. . Carroll points out that by examining the DNA of these ice fish species, it's possible to map its origins as well as the history of the South Atlantic's geology. He also uses dolphins, colobus monkeys and microbes to demonstrate how deeply evolution is etched in DNA. While searches for the genetic basis for evolution are hardly new, Carroll offers some provocative and convincing evidence. 7 pages of color illus.; 50 b&w illus. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Sensing that many people misunderstand evolution or don't believe it, geneticist Carroll here hopes to teach the interested and convince the doubters. He uses popular interest in animals as his lure and selects specific creatures, beginning with bloodless fishes of the Antarctic seas, as stages for his substantive points about evolution. More particularly, Carroll focuses on specific genes carried by his cast of animals to demonstrate natural selection. Carroll considers the animals' most favorable adaptations, preserved in what he calls "immortal genes"; several hundred are common to all domains of life. Carroll then scales up to the macroscopic and considers traits such as color vision in monkeys; the vision and anatomy of fish, including the famous coelacanth; and the sickle-cell trait in humans. In each case, Carroll explains how the DNA code of the gene responsible for the trait is inferred to be the result of natural selection working on mutations, which occur at a steady rate. Here is evolution clearly explained and stoutly defended. REVWR
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (September 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393330516
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393330519
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #123,658 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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

187 of 191 people found the following review helpful By Edward F. Strasser on October 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Richard Dawkins wrote a very enjoyable book titled The Ancestors Tale. It traces our evolution backwards, from humans, through apes and monkeys and so on, back to simple one-celled organisms. It tells the who of evolution: which species were descended from which. The Making of the Fittest tells the how and why: how variations appear in organisms and why they survive, or don't. This is the story of natural selection. Darwin told the story, but a lot more has been learned since then, especially in recent decades, and Sean B. Carroll has been one of the discoverers. But, unlike many researchers, he can write a readable book for beginners.

Carroll focuses on DNA because that's of prime importance. When DNA is copied, for the reproduction of the cell or the organism, the copy is not always exact. The new variant is usually harmful, but might be helpful. Carroll shows, using elementary arithmetic, why helpful variants occur and prosper much more often that most people would guess. Keep in mind that, when a bad gene does come along, the organism usually dies and the gene disappears from the pool. The good genes usually accumulate.

Carroll tells the story mostly through examples. For example, we humans are descended from animals that could see only 2 colors. Carroll tells of the duplication of the gene for one of the colors and the mutation of the second copy to react to a third color. (I simplify; Carroll tells more of the story.) Duplication and subsequent mutation of genes is very important in evolution. It allows organisms to develop new capabilities without losing the old.

Another important mechanism involves genes which control the expression of other genes.
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76 of 79 people found the following review helpful By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on October 31, 2006
Format: Hardcover
There is a notorious book for creationists titled _Evolution: The Fossils Say No!_ It gets right to its point in its title which accomplishes two things. One is to claim that fossils do not say what overwhelmingly biologists and geologists say they say. The other is to emphasize that fossils are the chief evidence evolution can muster. That might have been true a hundred years ago, but now, even if we had no fossils to study, we would still have wonderfully abundant evidence of evolution happening and just how it happened. We can now look directly at the DNA in animals that have evolved from previous ancestors and see indubitable chains of linkage. Sean B. Carroll, a professor of genetics, relates the stories scientists are coaxing from the molecules of genes in _The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution_ (Norton). He points out in his preface that there is wide public acceptance and understanding of DNA testing in solving crimes; DNA can provide testimony about who was present at a crime scene with far more trustworthiness than fingerprints or eyewitness recollection. Yet polls consistently show that something like half of the public in the United States are more likely to go with the anti-Darwinian ideas in _Evolution: The Fossils Say No!_ than they are to subscribe to the theory of evolution. It is Carroll's aim to have readers consider the DNA evidence for evolution as strong as DNA evidence from crime scenes, and his clear and entertaining book does just that. "Every evolutionary change between species, from physical form to digestive metabolism," he writes, "is due to - and recorded in - DNA. So, too, is the 'paternity' of species. DNA contains, therefore, the ultimate forensic record of evolution.Read more ›
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71 of 77 people found the following review helpful By R. Albin TOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is a solid but unexceptional popularization aimed at educating readers about how modern DNA sequencing - molecular methods have helped to explain the basis for adaptive changes and support evolutionary theory. Carroll produces a series of well written and illustrated chapters illustrating the fundamental genetic basis for adaptive changes. In doing so, he shows how this data vindicates and fleshes out basic features of evolutionary theory. This is done quite well but the book suffers from some significant defects. The last 3 chapters are largely tangential to the main thrust of the book. One is about the genesis of complex organs and developmental programs. This is ground that Carroll covered very well in his book Endless Forms Most Beautiful. This chapter is very good but doesn't add much to what he has written previously. Another later chapter is an analysis of the anti-evolution movement. This is solid essay but tangential to the topic of the book and the last chapter is a well written plea for more rational conservation and development measures to protect non-human species. I agree wholeheartedly with all Carroll writes on this subject but its not really an organic part of the book.

More important, Carroll has not addressed 2 important areas where some further discussion of molecular evidence would he very important. One is the use of sequencing data to generate phylogenetic trees and in general the whole crucial topic of molecular data as providing evidence for the unity of life is dealt with superficially. Most of Carroll's discussions are examples of within species evolution (microevolution); he doesn't address speciation (macroevolution). But many critics of evolution concede the existence of microevolution but dispute the reality of speciation. Carroll's omission of this topic is a major hole.
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