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Showing 1-10 of 48 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 103 reviews
on March 23, 2017
The title is well suited. One of the most beautiful books I have ever read. The way I see life Form/s has changed and my appreciation and love of our (all life) incredible journey makes me feel like my FOXP2 was damaged- I am mostly speechless.
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on July 9, 2014
I love "Endless Forms Most Beautiful". I never thought that in my lifetime I would see in such detail, how bodies are made from a single-celled embryo to many-celled animal.
It was working with simple fruit flies that helped to uncover how the building blocks for all animals are put together.
You may have to read the book more than once to get a firm understanding of the body plan, the timing of switches, and the decoding of the DNA. I hope you get a lot of pleasure from reading and understanding the book.
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on April 12, 2014
In this very pedagogic book, Sean Carroll shows the extreme conservatism of the genetic patrimony among species, which, on the face of it, raises something of a paradox: if genomes are largely shared among species, even when they are very far apart, where does the variety comes from? He outlines recent genetic discoveries, showing that the way genes are put to work at different places on an embryo and at different times will give raise to widely different forms. The regulation of this process is due to other genes, which will apply different constraints in different species, yielding the variety which can be seen in the biological world. An excellent introduction to recent biology and theory of evolution!
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on September 14, 2017
I am a developmental biologist and teach several lectures to both undergraduate and graduate students. The simplicity with which Sean Carroll presents the concepts along with historical perspective has given me ideas on how to teach these concepts. This is really a great book.
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on June 27, 2009
This book explains how evolution drives differentiation basically through modular design: by duplicating some sections of DNA, differentiating some of them to achieve specialization and then selecting the best suited. This is how from the same gene, different limbs are developed (wings, feet, antenae, tweezers, etc.), depending on where in the body grid the cells are located. First several pairs of the same limbs were formed, some mutation might occur to some of the pairs so that they could be used for some different purpose like flying; selection did the rest. It is usually not an entire gene that mutates, since the basic functions that the gene performs could be damaged and therefore the whole organism could be endangered. It is more that gene receptors are mutated so that they switch genes on and off at different timings and in different locations in the body in response to different gradients of a specific substance, to generate diversity.

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).
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on July 27, 2009
Sean Carroll, researcher and professor at the Howard Hughes Institute, is a genetics expert who offers a wonderful exploration of the cutting-edge science of evolutionary development (evo devo). This book, drawing from decades of genetics research as well as experiments performed in Carroll's own lab, reveals the subtle and exquisite results of millions of years of evolution as it relates to (specifically) embryology.

The first hundred pages or so are a primer on evolution as it is theorized in the Modern Synthesis of evolution. We find that the evidence for evolution is not just substantial, but largely consistent with this theory and overwhelmingly evidence of its predictions.

The second part of the book serve to isolate a few choice types of evidence, including fossil records and genes, and presents the findings of evolutionary development researchers as they apply to the making and diversity of animal species. Carroll focuses on numerous examples in nature of evolutionary processes, including the diversity and differences of butterfly patterns, three different wing development processes, and the coloration changes which lead to black pigmentation.

Carroll wraps up the latter half of the book by challenging the notion that creationism can explain any of this, and instead, offers that the proof of evolution was undeniable decades ago, and only strengthened with more recent research. Humans share a staggering portion of our genes, including the nearly-universal tool kit genes which dictate timing and location of other genes. Human beings are shown to be part of this earth-wide process, not a seperate entity with unusual properties.

At times, Endless Forms is a bit clinical, with several dozen pages running together filled with technical terms and often difficult-to-understand processes. I did have to reread sections to fully understand what was being stated. While this made it slow going at times, the result for me (and I hope for other readers) was a detailed understanding of why evo devo research can answer difficult questions about evolutionary processes which are unanswered in other disciplines.

For anyone interested in the clinical side of evolutionary research, this book is an excellent intermediate-level study of evo devo. Carroll is a fascinating researcher with years of first-hand experience in the field. While the text is dry at times, the information provided is worth the time spent to understand it. Four stars.
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on August 17, 2013
This book was recommended to me by a developmental biologist. I had been having trouble understanding why such people do the research that they do. My school education had not prepared me to understand why anyone would want to know so much about certain details of animals or plants, and then sometimes claim to want to contribute to human medicine. It was only when I read this book that I realised how many deep similarities there are, even between flies and people, for example. Thanks to this book, I can now read about progress in modern biology and see real value in it.
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on December 3, 2015
I'm looking forward to reading it again. This book is a must read if you are at all interested in how animal forms develop
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!
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on April 23, 2006
This book is a model of popular scientific writing: it's scientifically rigorous, clearly written, and takes us into exciting new realms.

The young science of evolutionary developmental biology (evo devo) seeks to explain how single cells develop into hugely complex life forms, and to explain why millions of life forms exist on our planet. Biologists are discovering that nature isn't profligate in her creations; new organisms aren't built from scratch, but by reusing and modifying existing genetic material. A small number of tool kit genes, which include HOX genes, turn out to be the basic building blocks for millions of organisms, from birds and bees to thee and me. These tool kit genes are modular, redundant and multi-functional, and nature appears very reluctant to mess with them - several basic tool kit and HOX genes have survived for over 500 million years.

The key to life's diversity appears to be the ways in which these building block genes are regulated and activated. This is the role of genetic switches, which can combine to influence gene functionality in innumerable ways. To take one example, the same tool kit genes, activated differently, can create a human arm, a bird wing or a centipede leg. Understanding these genetic mechanisms allows molecular biologists and embryologists to see similarities that were previously masked by the wild diversity of life forms. For instance, despite the fact that rodent and primate lines separated some 75 million years ago, mice and humans share a 99% correlation of genes, with 96% of those being arranged in an equivalent chromosomal order. This similarity is a powerful argument that nature's game plan is to preserve basic genetic structures and to make changes only at the margin by tinkering with the switching mechanisms of tool kit genes rather than their underlying functionality.

Evo devo gives a powerful boost to our understanding of how evolution actually works. The evidence seems to indicate that changes in species don't occur in the genes themselves but by mutations in genetic switches caused by environmental pressures. (Chapter 8, How the Butterfly Got Its Spots, is an excellent illustration of this process.) Gene switch mutations that help an organism flourish in its ecological niche will persist; other mutations will die out. And the same basic building block genes can be adapted by different species for different purposes. Biologists hypothesize that gills in our common aquatic ancestor were modified on land into lungs, tracheae, spinnerets and wings. Evo Devo fills in blanks in evolutionary theory by showing exactly how small changes in the switches of tool kit and regulatory genes can lead to large scale changes in life forms over long periods of time.

Carroll's prose approaches the E.O. Wilson level of elegant simplicty, which is high praise for scientific writing. While he's clearly enthusiastic about his subject, he doesn't oversell it. He's careful to delineate fact from theory, and stays humble about how much more there is to know. Several illustrations and color plates help to bring alive the genetic concepts Carroll discusses and they forge a visceral correlation between evo devo theory and the realm of our senses. This book will literally help you to see with new eyes both your self and the millions of non-human relatives with whom you share this grand adventure called life.
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on November 8, 2015
Sean B. Carroll is a great writer as well as an outstanding biologist. I had the good fortune of hearing him speak and of meeting him at Northern Virginia Community College - his public presentation is engaging and comprehend-able by very mixed audiences. Very nice guy, as well!
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