- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (April 17, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393327795
- ISBN-13: 978-0393327793
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 105 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #24,567 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo Reprint Edition
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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“One of the essential books of our times…[explains] for a general audience how the shapes of organisms are produced by genes.”
- Peter Forbes, The Guardian
“[Carroll] reveals a remarkable series of insights into how evolution has shaped―and continues to shape―the wondrous assortment of creatures that share this planet with us. He emerges as the new, user-friendly public face of evolutionary science.”
- Thomas Hayden, US News & World Report
“Carroll is a gifted writer…In light of this new understanding (Evo Devo), the objections to evolutionary theory based on transitional gaps and irreducible complexity become more obtuse than ever.”
- Library Journal
“Combines clear writing with a deep knowledge.”
- Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Sean B. Carroll is professor of genetics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. His first book, Endless Forms Most Beautiful, was a finalist for the 2005 Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Carroll’s seminal scientific work has been featured in Time and The New Yorker. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin.
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The discoveries made from the 1980's onwards in these science fields are truly groundbreaking and really interesting. Truly new for me was the modularity concept, as well as the role that the relative position of a cell to the body's axis plays when determining the development of form. Also interesting is the merging of genetics with embriology and the study of hox-genes (genes that drive development).
The only drawback I found in the book is that it sometimes does not fully explain the mechanisms at play. If you are a complete layman to the subject, I suggest reading Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body (Vintage) first, since it explains some basics in more detail. Then you can fully enjoy this book. For a deep and not too difficult understanding of the molecular mechanisms read Life Itself: Exploring the Realm of the Living Cell and for a good overall explanation read Nature Via Nurture : Genes, Experience, and What Makes Us Human.In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind also makes a good job explaining how gene receptors work.
An interesting and probably complementary alternative view to how form is driven is morphogenesis (How the Leopard Changed Its Spots : The Evolution of Complexity).
The first part focuses on embryonic development. The most important idea is that there is a lot of DNA in animal genomes which comprise switches, which are precisely controlled to turn on and off genes at different points in the body as it develops. These switches effectively encode the coordinates on the body where each type of feature is supposed to arise. When these coordinates get screwed up, as in mutations, you get bizarre things like flies with legs growing out of their heads.
The second part is about evolution, and how one form (or species) arises from another. The most crucial notion is that evolution is a tinkerer, not an engineer, making very small adjustments. But since these adjustments are typically to switches, not genes, they can turn on or off complete features, or alter their location on the body. So, often, an evolutionary path will start with many copies of a given feature (think millipede), and then refine and specialize particular instances of the feature (think of the varied limbs of a lobster). There are numerous examples of features which start out serving one purpose, and them morph into some entirely different purpose, as in gills morphing into wings.
Very well written, highly recommended.
and how they evolve. The role played by the small number of master genes in the embryology of different life forms is
just fascinating. The book is very easy to read, in fact, hard to put down!