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


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Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science… | Folio | TinyCat

The answer lies in "genetic switches" that are encoded in DNA. But these switches have not yet been decoded; they are like the "dark matter" in galaxies--we know that it exists, but its nature is not yet been unraveled. The first half of the book focuses on how animals develop body parts.

Every cell in one's body contains the identical DNA, so how does an embryo "know" which jcells are to develop into a heart, an arm, a finger, a brain, and on and on. Earlier books on evolution that I have read, simply left this as a mystery; hypotheses were described, but none articulated as a real answer. But, this book presents a very persuasive theory, and makes it quite understandable to the layman. In the second half of the book, Carroll conveys his sense of excitement, as molecular biologists began recently to talk with paleontologists.

Remarkable progress in the past decade has shown fossils in a brand new light. Basically, evolution for the most part is not the development of new, mutated genes; evolution is the way in which old genes learn "new tricks". Embryology is shown to play a key role in understanding evolutionary development. For anyone interested in evolution or genetics, this is the book to read. View 2 comments. Mar 01, Mark rated it really liked it.

These articles got my level of understanding from "I bet it's complicated" to "It's complicated and has something to do with HOX genes. I will say it's amazing that scientists have figured out so much of how nature's evolutionary toolkit, used to fiddle with morphology over the eons. Those HOX genes are indeed at the center of it, and the discovery that humans and fruit flies share almost exactly identical core sequences is like discovering that the Egyptian hieroglyphics describing how to use an Ikea wrench to build the pyramids.

A lot of the same science with a different approach. View all 3 comments. Apr 11, Elliott Bignell rated it it was amazing. This is staggeringly rivetting science and lovely science writing. I have been looking for a work on embryology and evolution to clarify some questions about how to design evolutionary algorithms and this was it. At the same time, it opens up a breathtaking vista of how evolution actually happens and how it is constrained. This is one of the few cases where I can honestly say that I feel I understand a whole new set of principles and perspectives after reading that I did not before.

It's also an This is staggeringly rivetting science and lovely science writing. It's also an engaging and thoroughly enjoyable read. Carroll is a professional in this most demanding field while at the same time being a great popular science writer. I can only hope he does not holster his pen after doing this. The central realisation is shockingly simple, even if the scientific work to acquire it was bogglingly demanding: Animal body plans do not do anything new, and haven't done since the pre-Cambrian.

That's a brutal oversimplification which I will have to embellish a little: All animal body plans are developed in an embryology regulated by the same, dozen or so, highly-conserved genes which are common to all extant animals and remarkably well conserved. That is the unmistakeable signature of something that is so important that it kills you if it varies, evolutionarily-speaking.

Variations in the homeobox genes mean you leave no surviving offspring, and probably never even have a surviving self. So how can body forms vary at all? By turning on and off switches. It's a concept that was almost made to be ripped off and used in software. Very early on in embryology, a set of dimensions asserts itself - a "geography". There is an East-West ordinate anterior to posterior ; there is a North-South ordinate dorsal to ventral ; there is an in-out ordinate proximal to distal.

These begin to be defined at the very first cell division based on arbitrary distribution of signalling molecules, and once established they are inscribed on the molecule by diffusion gradients.


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Each regulatory protein describes a gradient across the embryo or its local part of the embryo, and each engages switches that turn other genes on and off. Thus do the cells know whether they are at the head end or the anus end, the back or the belly, the shoulder or the fingers. The clever bit is that the switches can be multiple, of arbitrary complexity, and work in cascades without having to change the crucial regulatory third-rail genes.

Touch 'em and you die. Touch their switches, on the other hand, and you have a set of coordinates precise enough to divide the zones of gene expression up hundreds-fold. The Hox genes, tellingly, are arranged on the genome in the same order as they are expressed along the body. And therein lies the second huge and simple realisation - virtually all animal forms you will have seen, from yourself, O Vertebrate, to worms and butterflies, are built out of a series of segments arranged from anterior to posterior.

This is a simple and forceful truth of evolution: The same segmented body plan is seen in most of what you see in animals. Evolution proceeds from the duplication of general-purpose segments to their increasing divergence and specialisation. Carroll has had his 15 minutes of fame, as he describes in the book, according to the capricious mandate of the media agenda of the day. It's time for a further 15 hours, properly planned, for this is magnificent science writing and contains an understanding so profound that it is no exaggeration to say it deserves to be required reading for courses in biology for non-professionals.

Perhaps even for professionals, but that's a question for them. At any rate, if you want to discuss evolution you need to have read the material in this endlessly beautiful book. Jul 20, Matt rated it liked it. First of all, I should clarify that I'm no scientist. But I do have an egghead mentality, and I've read plenty on evolution. What I hadn't read was much about developmental biology, and for me, that's where the main benefit of the book came.

Although sometimes I wished Carroll would have boiled some of his page chapters down to two or three. Those are my disclaimers. But I think I gained a lot of insight anyway. The book's excitement comes in the form of summarizing the "evo devo" movement, the First of all, I should clarify that I'm no scientist.

The book's excitement comes in the form of summarizing the "evo devo" movement, the movement in biology whereby seeing how genes express themselves in a growing embryo enables us to see into the life histories of how these genes have changed over millions of years of evolution. The primary insight thereafter is that natural selection hasn't forged eyes and teeth and legs and antennae completely from scratch each time, but rather that there is a common genetic ingredient to making each eye type, as well as to the many types of appendages, hearts, etc.

And these common genetic ingredients must date back deep in time. And furthermore, genetic advancements and advancements in developmental biology enable us to see those changes in action. It was fun to read about how arthropod gills can stay as gills, or they become wings or lungs or other appendages. And my favorite new insight might be Williston's law: "The parts in an organism tend toward reduction in number, with the fewer parts greatly specialized in function.

And it's not so much that "genes" are changing as it is that "switches" which, frankly, are still genes are turning them on and off or adapting them in some other way. This cracked up my wife to no end. It's 'branding' for a new movement in biological science, about as hip-sounding as "Extreme Programming". But let's not judge a book by its cover. The author claims that this movement is "Revolution 3", on par with the Darwinian discovery of evolution by natural selection, and Mendel's discovery of genetics. Is it hype? Is it justified? One thing's for sure: if you like seeing pictures of a lamb born with only one eye in the center of its forehead , flies with legs where there should be antennae, and x-rays of seven-toed baby humans, this is your book.

The problem with proclaiming revolutions' significance while they are happening, is that by the nature of revolutions they are unpredictable in outcome see "The Black Swan". It wasn't obvious to an observer in , or , which one would overthrow a monarchy and which one would fail to. It probably wasn't obvious to peers of Darwin that his ideas would catch on, and Gregor Mendel's peers didn't even really notice his work until after he was dead. It's about how genetics makes evolution happen, by changing the way we develop from conception to birth.

It's taken as given that evolution by natural selection will reward creatures born with an advantage not much here for the creationist reader, not even someone to argue with. The question is, how does the mutation process work, exactly? The question arises because, in the last twenty years, we've found out that a lot of our genes code for multiple things.

The same gene which codes for our arms can code for wings in fruit flies, for example. How can one gene do that? Equally complicated is that the same gene does multiple things in the same species. But if one gene is used in limb development and, say, rib development, how can a mutation ever be beneficial? Even if it is useful in one case longer legs, for instance , if it also causes other body parts to be out of whack, it's almost certain to be a net loss. How can natural selection work?

The answer seems to be that our genes are turned on and off in different parts of the body, and at different times in our development, by switches. These switches which are coded for in our DNA, of course can mutate, and only affect one feature.


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  8. If most of this DNA can be use to different purposes by switching it on and off at different times in our development, these numbers are easier to understand. Also, by monkeying around with the very early embryos of fruit flies, we can get some truly B-horror-movie-worthy pictures.

    When nature does the same sort of thing, we can get a picture of a lamb head that will take a while to get out of your memory. Evo Devo, besides being a silly name, makes for a good read. For too long, popular science books on biology have been stuck on the "here's why creationists are wrong" level. I enjoyed being given a layman's view of the mechanisms that evolution can use to actually tinker around with things, from an author who respected my intelligence enough not to waste his breath on trying to convince me of evolution in the first place.

    He hops from how science actually happens who discovered what, when, and why it turned out differently than they expected , to how evolution happens, to salient examples from the natural world e. This is the first book from Sean Carroll that I have read, but I hope it will not be the last. View all 14 comments. Jul 13, Elizabeth K. Well, this was very informative. I had to really buckle in to focus on everything.

    My favorite part was how Dr. Carroll would start off an explanation with "it's quite simple, actually I am making this sound like a chore, and it wasn't at all. But it was definitely not light reading. The diagrams weren't even light reading. Usually I read sciencey books like this, and try to hang on to a few important takeaways. So let's see, what did I learn here other than that I'm jus Well, this was very informative.

    So let's see, what did I learn here other than that I'm just around the right age for all of the huge leaps in DNA research to have happened fairly quickly after I was in school, so that pretty much everything I was taught ended up being wrong? Primarily, it was a really good grounding in why it's not particularly unusual that living creatures share a great percentage of genes, but that the more complicated process is in the assembly instructions, so to speak, and the sequencing of those instructions.

    And then that this process is evidenced both in the large sense of how species evolve, and at the micro level of how individual embryos grow into their ultimate form directly or indirectly, I'm looking at you, JELLYFISH. For some reason I had gotten the impression that the relationship between those two concepts was more of an observational metaphor literally I would be the worst scientist ever, every time something unexpected happened, I'd cheerfully be all "well, I'm just going to go with a good metaphor for this!

    I would recommend for people who are interested in evolution and have already gotten comfortable with the broad strokes and would like a deeper dive into processes. Interestingly enough TO ME , this book also imparted a much clearer understanding of how to understand cladograms Jun 04, Lark Benobi rated it it was ok Shelves: nonfiction , male-identified-authors. The writing was much too breathless, in a "gee, look at this butterfly wing! The science got buried in metaphorical cliche'.

    Writing for a lay audience is always going to be tricky and I think in this case Carroll aimed too low and ended up using too many words that don't say much. For those interested in another way to approach learning about current evolution theory I strongly recommend checking out the Yale open course available for free online, "Principles of Evolution, Ecology The writing was much too breathless, in a "gee, look at this butterfly wing!

    For those interested in another way to approach learning about current evolution theory I strongly recommend checking out the Yale open course available for free online, "Principles of Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior," taught by Stephen C. Stearns, who is as eloquent a storyteller as Sean B.

    Endless Forms Most Beautiful

    Feb 20, Correen rated it it was amazing. Finally, it is finished and I am sorry to have taken so long. It is a wonderful set of examples of evo-devo that explain the role of tool-kit genes and the switches they contain. The elegance of this evolutionary process is magnificent. He tops off "i am not so naive to believe that science can solve all the world's problems, but ignorance of science, or denial of it's facts, is courting doom. He tops off his examples of insects, especially butterflies, with mammal examples including the human brain.

    I was intrigued by the similarity in color switches across the animal kingdom. Jan 04, Nikki rated it really liked it Shelves: science-fact , non-fiction. Reviewed for The Bibliophibian. If you are, it illustrates the principles nicely, and I imagine a full colour copy of the book if it exists would be rather physically gorgeous as well.

    Evo Devo is a bit of a buzzword for some biologists lately, and this book is worth the read for learning about that. This book proved to be both one of the most interesting scientific readings I've ever found, and one of the hardest.

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

    It is compelling, well-written, engaging and, overall, the best aproach possible to a frankly not-so-simple reading. And I expected that. The first time I heard about the book, or Evo-devo itself, was when I heard a "Despacito" parody made by Acapellascience where this book was the main source: I knew I would find something equally challenging and interesting.

    Sean B. Carroll 4. Carroll manages to bring evolutionary developmental biology close to the public, but a good degree of previous biology knowledge more in the developmental and genetic fields than in evolutionary theory is still needed, and I had a hard time sometimes keeping up with it. But the fact that I finished, despite not quite grasping everything I was reading, not even close to it, proves its value. No, I would not recommend it to everybody, but yes, I would encourage anyone with an interest in evolution and its driving mechanisms to give it an opportunity.

    Here I've discovered amazing things: from the fact that insect wings, horseshoe crab book gills and book lungs, tracheae and spinnerets in spiders have all evolved from gill branches present in ancestral arthropods; to the fascinating picture of melanism in many animals.

    Endless Forms Most Beautiful

    The awesome facts Carroll brings to you are as cool as unexpected: how convergent evolution didn't create the same kind of wings in pterosaurs, bats and birds but indeed based the structure in fingers, hands and arms ; how the But the book isn't just a collection of cool stories; rather than that, is a well documented and argued explanation of the why to those stories, with a final insight on the importance of evo-devo in education, public debate, and the preservation of Nature.

    When you finish it, I guarantee that you will see the endless forms most beautiful that surround us in a very different way. S: for anyone who's left with the desire to read more about these topics, Carroll devotes a last few pages to dissect the many different sources of every last chapter and core ideas of the book, putting it aside, and not in the middle of the text, to get it out of the way of the narrative.

    EDIT: this is one of the few cases where I wouldn't recommend the mass paperback pocket edition of the book. Images displayed in color in the original get confusing and less meaningful in their black and white version here. Mostly, the experience just losses a bit of beauty, but in some cases the clarity of explanations diminishes as well. Jun 07, Kevin rated it really liked it. A solid introduction to evo devo. Also his non-inclusion of population genetic findings is vehemently criticized by Michael Lynch.

    Despite these flaws, overall quite enjoyable. Aug 14, Dianne rated it it was amazing. Here's why this book blew my mind. I remember almost everything I learned in high school biology more than 20 years ago , and there were some things that no one could then explain. What, for instance, triggers some cells to become liver cells while others become skin cells? And, why, once a cell has become a liver cell, can it not produce skin cells?

    Why do all vertebrates follow roughly the same sequence of embryonic and fetal development? Those things were a mystery in the 80s, and they were o Here's why this book blew my mind. Those things were a mystery in the 80s, and they were often and are often still cited by opponents of the twin theories of evolution and genetics as evidence for the existence of some divine being - since we had not yet discovered a simple material cause, these mysteries must have been the work of a divine intelligence.

    The Wow Factor was twofold. I admired the carefully choreographed ballet of embryonic development where causes flowed simply and surely from the effects of prior causes, no intelligent designer required. At the same time, I marvelled at the intricacy and ingenuity of the human minds that managed to figure all this out. As I read the book, I'd remark to my husband, who had read it right before I did, "So, he's now explained the mystery of x, that we didn't know about when I was in HS.

    But I'm still wondering about y. Sep 21, Gendou rated it it was amazing Shelves: non-fiction , biology. This is a very informative and fascinating book about evolutionary biology and genetics! While I find the term "Evo Devo" quite silly, it is a deep and illuminating topic. The author also uses a couple other tacky terms that bugged me: He refers to the genomic contents not coding for proteins as "dark matter". He refers to the Cambrian explosion as a "big bang", groan. The book avoids heavy microbiological details on genetics, focusing instead on how different body parts are made.

    The most important c This is a very informative and fascinating book about evolutionary biology and genetics! The most important concept in the book is that of genetic switches. That, and the small set of toolkit proteins which act on those switches. The reader will learn how sort of coordinate system is mapped on a developing embryo.

    There is a good bit of time spent on human evolution, of course. But the reader also gets a close look at butterflies, fruit flies, and my favorite! The last chapter contains a refreshingly heavy-handed smack down against creationism. This book should be required reading for all chordates!

    Building on Darwin's famous last sentence "endless forms most beautiful" in the Origin of Species, Carroll gives a wonderful history and account of the science of Evolutionary Developmental Biology Evo Devo. The story encompasses two broad categories: embryology - how animals develop their forms from embryo to adult, and evolution - how species have developed over the eons through natural selection. Evo devo exploded in the last decade as geneticists have begun to unlock the secrets of how our forms came to be. Why is it that birds got their feathers from dinosaurs which needed them to stay warm?

    Did you know that butterfly wings and centipede legs developed from fish gills? Neither did I. This is a fascinating book that will take you through the story of life, specifically the genetics of the development of species' physical forms. This is one of the best books I've ever read, but then again, it's not for everyone. But, if you love genetics Jun 19, Barbm rated it it was amazing. This book is a fine explanation of developmental evolution. It is easy to follow and even entertaining for anybody with an unbiased curiosity about nature.

    It's an attractive volume with some amazing color plates illustrating some of the experiments that have shown scientists how DNA works in insect larvae. There are also photos of fossils and drawings of various animals as they once appeared and as they exist now. A very important book for all biology teachers, college students, school board me This book is a fine explanation of developmental evolution. A very important book for all biology teachers, college students, school board members and home schoolers, it is easy enough for me to understand and I was not not a bio major. Religious fundamentalists to the contrary, there is no reason to fear for our values in facing the truth about the world around us, and it's time American schoolchildren caught up with the 20 countries where students scored better than our kids on biology questions.

    Jan 09, Troy Blackford rated it really liked it. Good book on evolution with a focus on embryological development, and how the genotypic information affects the phenotype from a development standpoint. I was very intrigued, though this book had frequent long, dry passages. That's just what you get when you receive an in-depth examination of complex processes, however.

    From the formation of butterflies' complex wing patterns to the camouflaging utility of zebra stripes and a look at the question: is a zebra black with white stripes or white wi Good book on evolution with a focus on embryological development, and how the genotypic information affects the phenotype from a development standpoint. From the formation of butterflies' complex wing patterns to the camouflaging utility of zebra stripes and a look at the question: is a zebra black with white stripes or white with black stripes , this book held my interest and attempted to educate me far above my level of effectiveness.

    A fascinating read. Apr 19, Dave Gaston rated it it was ok Shelves: nonfiction , over-my-head , evolution. Carroll did his best to bring break-through, gene level science down to my level of comprehension. To state the obvious, Endless Forms was endlessly over my head. I love the mere topic of evolution, so with an open slack jaw, I numbly chugged through it.

    Regardless Carroll did his best to bring break-through, gene level science down to my level of comprehension. Darwin himself. Dec 05, Matthew rated it really liked it Shelves: science-biology , science. Every so often a book comes along that completely blows you away. This is one such book. I bought this book to better understand the concepts presented in that video.

    This book rekindled that feeling of awe as it explained the beauty of evolution and t Every so often a book comes along that completely blows you away. This book rekindled that feeling of awe as it explained the beauty of evolution and the fundamentally simple mechanisms that make it all possible: genetic switches, tool-kit genes and Hox proteins that govern the development of embryonic form. The book is replete with interesting case studies and examples of evolution, such as the fact that gills were repurposed in ingenious ways to form everything from insect wings to spider spinnerets, the independent evolution of wings in insects, pterodactyls, birds and bats, and the way animal coat colourings spread outward from the neural crest along the spine, often causing lighter colours underneath on the belly and providing a clue for how the zebra got its stripes.

    He does a great job bringing the beauty and wonder of evolution to the fore. That said, I am only giving it four out of five stars because of the omission of colour plates in the soft-cover book. Introduction: Butterflies, Zebras, and Embryos. Sean B. He lives in Madison. Endless Forms Most Beautiful provides an essential glimpse into both the creation of lifeand the excitement of scientific discovery.

    Instead of trying to merely recreate the excitement of the scientist hot on the trail of something new, Carroll actually explains the source of the excitement to the reader [ Newsletter Google 4. Help pages.

    Prothero Michael J. Benton Richard Fortey View All. Go to British Wildlife. Conservation Land Management. Go to Conservation Land Management. By: Sean B Carroll Author. Publisher: Quercus Publishing. Click to have a closer look. Select version. About this book Contents Customer reviews Biography Related titles.

    Images Additional images. Contents - Preface: Revolution No. Popular Science. Media reviews. Current promotions. Bestsellers in Evolution. The Ascent of Birds.

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    More Info. Darwin's Ghosts. Darwin's Most Wonderful Plants. The Tangled Tree. Mountains, Climate and Biodiversity. Avian Evolution.

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

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