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

Sean B. Carroll
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

12 Jan 2006 New Science of Evo Devo
Evo Devo is evolutionary development biology, the third revolution in evolutionary biology. The first was marked by the publication of The Origin of Spec ies. The second occurred in the early 20th century, when Darwin's theories were merged with the study of genetics. Now the insights of Evo Devo are astonishing the biology world by showing how the endless forms of animals - butterflies and zebras, trilobites and dinosaurs, apes and humans - are made and evolved. Perhaps the most surprising finding of Evo Devo is the discovery that a small number of primitive genes led to the formation of fundamental organs and appendages in all animal forms. The gene that causes humans to form arms and legs is the same gene that causes birds and insects to form wings, and fish to form fins. Similarly, one ancient gene has led to the creation of eyes across the animal kingdom. Changes in the way this ancient toolkit of genes is used have created all the diversity that surrounds us. Sean Carroll is the ideal author to lead the curious on this intellectual adventure. He is the acknowledged leader of the field, and his seminal discoveries have been featured in Time and the New York Times.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson; New edition edition (12 Jan 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297850946
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297850946
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 16 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 299,689 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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"Once in a while, though, a book comes along that not only transports the layman to the cutting edge of science, but helps transform the intellectual or cultural landscape... Sean Carroll's Endless Forms Most Beautiful... deserves to... EvoDevo is a complex and highly technical subject but Carroll manages magnificently to translate the debates into a lay language without patronising the reader.

Endless Forms Most Beautiful provides an essential glimpse into both the creation of lifeand the excitement of scientific discovery." (KENAN MALIK SUNDAY TELEGRAPH )

"Carroll does something superb - something very few other popular science writers try to do. Instead of trying to merely recreate the excitement of teh scientist hot on the trail of something new, Carroll actually explains the source of the excitement to the reader... a book for those with a natural scientific curiosity.. never before has such an evolutionary synthesis had such an explanatory power." (MORNING STAR )

"in attempting to make Evo Devo accessible to a wider readership... Carroll does it splendidly." (STEVEN ROSE THE GUARDIAN )

From the Back Cover

Striped horses, gigantic grey mammals with six-foot-long noses, and spotted cats that can outrun a Jeep? If these creatures did not exist, they would be almost too incredible to believe. Our planet is filled with an astonishing multiplicity of strange and beautiful animal forms. For all the advances in our knowledge made by Darwin and pioneers in many different fields since, how these forms are created has remained something of a mystery. Thanks to evolutionary development biology - dubbed Evo Devo - we now understand this process. The answer, it turns out, lies in an ancient genetic toolkit common to all species. Sean B. Carroll takes us on a fascinating journey through this groundbreaking field, showing how all forms - from the humble fruit fly to Homo sapiens - are a result of old genes learning new tricks.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Switching On/Off the Spectacular 30 Jun 2005
By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME
Carroll contends the greatest spectacle of life is the development of a single cell into a complete organism. From that one cell comes trillions, grouped into special functions and producing everything from wings to webbed feet. How can such variation derive from a single fertilised egg? More importantly, in Carroll's view, how can creatures with a similar number of working genes, such as mice and humans be so different? This highly readable overview of how embryos develop into adult bodies explores the mechanics of the process in exquisite and illuminating detail.
The amount of media attention given DNA has often led us to assume direct links can be made between "a gene" and parts of the organism. Carroll sets straight this misleading image. Everything that goes into building a body, from butterfly wings to a zebra's stripes, relies on a sequence of events. The sequence begins with what he dubs the "Tool Kit" of development. Basic to all animal life are the HOX genes which control which parts are front/back, top/bottom and inside/outside. Other tools build limbs, regulate processes, arrange for hair, scales or feathers as required. Once the basic organisation is made, the development process uses a string of "switches" to fine tune the body's appearance and operations. The switches are the key to many aspects of the body. Failure to work or turning something "on" or "off" at the wrong time or place results in loss or mutation. It is a process that has been under way for millions of years, adding or removing features under environmental pressures.
The author selects a small variety of examples to illustrate how the mechanism works. A favoured example is butterflies, which come in a rich variety of wing shape and decoration.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Teaching old genes new tricks 15 Jan 2012
We must move away from thinking of evolution (and teaching it) as 'the changes in frequency of genes in genomes'. At worst, this is incomplete and misleading. At best, it is boring an uninformative. Instead, evolution is about changes in an organisms' form over (usually vast) time, brought about through changes in embryology. Furthermore, form is not moulded by changes in genes, per se, but more by alterations in how genes are utilised during development. We have pretty much the same repertoire of genes as worms and flies, yet the differences in form between us and them is obvious. It is changes in gene expression, in time and space, resulting from natural selection, that truly drives evolutionary adaptation. This is the core of Carroll's argument.

For too long the sciences of 'genetics' and 'developmental biology' were separated. 'Evolutionary developmental biology' or 'Evo-Devo' brings them back together with embryology as a central focus. Carroll is unquestionably a world leader in this relatively new field, and so is well positioned to write such a book.

The book is split broadly into two sections. First, Carroll describes the development of organisms. This makes readers familiar with genes, gene expression, and gene regulation. He introduces 'tool-kit' genes; those which do specific jobs during development, and then explains how changing when and where they are expressed can change the final developmental outcome. The context of gene expression is all important. In the second part of the book, Carroll moves into proper evolutionary biology but always from an Evo-Devo angle. He talks about changes in limb structures, segmentation, and butterfly wing patterns - all of which are neatly explained by changing the patterns of expression of 'tool-kit' genes.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intersting but not well written. 12 Dec 2007
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
i cannot add much to the earlier reviews regarding the content of the book, which is very interesting. I would like to give it 5 stars but I can only give it 4 because I feel that Mr. Carroll does not write as clearly as Richard Dawkins, Stephen Jay Gould, Steve Jones or Jared Diamond, to name a few. For example, he writes about a species of butterfly which has prominent spots in one season but minute spots in another season, but he never actually spells out why this strategy is a good idea. Also, I don't think he ever actually defines what he means by the term "toolkit gene", for example - a glossary of terms would be helpful in this regard.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Empirically beautiful 15 Jun 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you want to see the way DNA is helping us put together the origins of life, this is the book for you. It is simply explained, enthusiastically written and sensibly illustrated. Gone are the days when creationists can point at the unhelpfulness of mutation; Sean B Carroll shows how millions occur quite naturally in DNA and lead to extrordinary, but logical, changes in species. I recommend this book as a perfect companion to Darwin, Dawkins, Watson and many others.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More science please.... we're British. 14 Jan 2008
By djb
The author explains how animals develop from a single fertilised cell according to the unfolding logic of a small number of so-called "toolkit" genes.Amazingly all animals utilise the same limited set of genes.All cells contain the complete set of genetic info necessary to build the whole animal and the activity of each gene in an embryonic cell is controlled by a complex array of genetic switches which are triggered by specific proteins etc....

The science is fascinating but the writing can be sloppy. For example " if signatures for repressor proteins are removed, then the patterns drawn by switches will expand" should surely be translated as "...then the activity of the gene will be repressed in fewer cells".

Surely it is important for the language to be accurate and precise. Sean Carroll seems to be more concerned to quote Hendrix, Lennon and McCartney and promote such awful phrases as Evo-Devo...aaahhh. Even so, the science is fascinating.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but hard
I enjoyed this book but it was a bit of a slog at times. I have no knowledge of microbiology so some parts of this book completely passed me by. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Stephen Longden
5.0 out of 5 stars Gene switching guide
Gene regulation is revealing so much and this is a brilliant book on the subject. A must for any young or as in my case, old, biologist. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Mr. R. Morris
5.0 out of 5 stars Spectacular Introduction to the Science of Evolutionary Developmental...
Still among the most impressive accounts on the current state of affairs in contemporary evolutionary biology, "Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo" is an... Read more
Published 20 months ago by John Kwok
5.0 out of 5 stars Spectacular Introduction to the Science of Evolutionary Developmental...
Still among the most impressive accounts on the current state of affairs in contemporary evolutionary biology, "Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo" is an... Read more
Published 20 months ago by John Kwok
5.0 out of 5 stars Evo-Devo, the new science of evolutionary developmental biology
Carroll is a geneticist at the University of Wisconsin, and his book is about the recent rise (in the last decade or so) of the science of evolutionary developmental biology. Read more
Published on 2 Jan 2010 by Dr. C. Jeynes
3.0 out of 5 stars disappointing
This is the fourth evolution book I have read since watching the BBC programme about Darwin. When I finish reading a book ; I always ask myself what I have learnt and what I... Read more
Published on 6 Aug 2009 by Mr. J. Hudson
4.0 out of 5 stars NDT - Has Changed Its Spots
Carroll is generally a good communicator of his ideas - not in the league of Dawkins with his writing prowess, but nonetheless his passion for his views shine through. Read more
Published on 20 July 2008 by Jonathan Green
4.0 out of 5 stars New Dimensions in Genetics
Evo-devo (evolutionary development) is an important new branch of biology. In the last 25 years genetics has made enormous strides in understanding how organisms develop in the... Read more
Published on 7 Feb 2006
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