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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Explains some key concepts of evolution., 12 April 2008
This review is from: River Out Of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (SCIENCE MASTERS) (Paperback)
Eyes have evolved between 40 and 60 times in inveterbrates showing nine different distinctive characteristics. Hold on a second! How? Answer: evolution through natural selection. Thank you Mr. Darwin!

There two components to evolution - the central understanding of biology and zoology.

1. Random mutation of DNA during reproduction
2. Natural selection of genes.

When a species is separated by geographical barries (rivers, mountains) for a long period of time, the changes in group 1 will eventually be no longer compatable with group 2. They can't interbred and you then have two species where once their was one. That's why red squirrels can't interbred with grey ones.

Now, from simple DNA copying mechanisms in bacteria, all animals, plants, protozoa, fungi have evolved. How do we know this? We have an infinite amount of DNA analysis and about a billion fossils.

Some of the key concepts in evolution are explained in this book. DNA being the instruction set for a living organism, the actual structure of DNA itself, the fact that all humans share a common female ancestor (in the female - female line) whose time on the planet can be estimated by mathematically analysing the michondrial DNA differences and factoring them with mutations rates.

In this book, we are also treated to some interesting anecdotes from the animal kingdom:
1. Gray squirrels and Req squirrels can't interbred because they have evolved into separate spieces.
2. Turkeys kill anything that moves near their babies unless it emits a babies cry. If they are deaf they can kill their own babies because they use the babies cry to differentiate between their babies and other moving objects such as rats, mice etc.
3. Honeybees tell each other the whereabouts of flowers by means of a carefully coded dance.

All along the central theme of natural selection is referenced and explained. Whatever works best, reproduces best. The best genes stay in the gene pool while the worst are chucked out by an amoral and unconcious natural selection process.

Dawkins has written several books on evolution. So what's so good about this one? I have read several of them. They all have a lucid, succint style and are written with Dawkins' infectious enthusasim. This one is shorter the others. So if you want the good grounding in evolution but are not worried about every nook and cranny of what forms the central understanding of zoology and biology. Go for this book.
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