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Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom Audible – Unabridged

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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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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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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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