Dazzling work, passionate and magisterial. Nothing of more lasting importance than the core narrative of this book will be published this year - Guardian
From the Inside Flap
For more than a century, we were restricted to studying evolution from the outside, observing its progress only through the fossil record. No longer. We can now also read the DNA record. As well as containing the operating instructions for everyday existence and for making the next generation, DNA contains a vast and detailed history of the development of life on Earth. It is a living chronicle of evolution, pinpointing the precise changes that have enabled Earth's marvelous creatures to inhabit the planet's shifting environments, from the freezing waters of the Antarctic to the lush canopy of the rainforest. Our new ability to read the DNA record has resoundingly confirmed Darwin's main principles and has led to some surprising discoveries. We now know that there is a set of “immortal” genes in the DNA of nearly every creature, from bacteria to whales. These genes first emerged three billion years ago and have survived the constant onslaught of mutations that would have erased them eons ago were it not for natural selection. We have also discovered fossil genes - areas of DNA that have fallen into disuse and decay. Such relics illuminate the traits and capabilities that have been abandoned as species, including humans, evolved new lifestyles. Perhaps the most profound surprise is that evolution can and does repeat itself. Identical adaptations have occurred in species as different as butterflies and humans - a discovery that overthrows the notion that if we replayed the history of life, all of the outcomes would be different. Captivating and lucid, The Making of the Fittest delves deep into the DNA record to reveal not just how the fittest survive but also how they are made.
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