Saturday, September 30, 2006

 

Clever Tinkering: Book Review of 'Endless Forms Most Beautiful' (Evo Devo)

An American Scientist book review: All plants and animals, including humans, are essentially societies of cells that vary in configuration and complexity. As Darwin's theory made clear, these multitudinous forms developed as a result of small changes in offspring and natural selection of those that were better adapted to their environment. Such variation is brought about by alterations in genes that control how cells in the developing embryo behave. Thus one cannot understand evolution without understanding its fundamental relation to development of the embryo. Yet 'evo devo,' as evolutionary developmental biology is affectionately called, is a relatively new and growing field.

Sean B. Carroll (homepage), as a leading expert both in how animals develop and in how they have evolved, is ideally placed to explain evo devo. His new book on the subject, Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom (Amazon UK | US) (the title borrows a phrase from Darwin's On the Origin of Species - Amazon UK | US), was written, he says, with several types of readers in mind - anyone interested in natural history, those in the physical sciences who are interested in the origins of complexity, students and educators (of course), and anyone who has wondered 'Where did I come from?' Carroll has brilliantly achieved what he set out to do.

Reviewer Information: Lewis Wolpert is Emeritus Professor of Biology as Applied to Medicine in the Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, University College London.

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