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Picking up where scientists like Richard Dawkins have left off, Carroll, a professor of genetics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison (Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo-Devo), has written a fast-paced look at how DNA demonstrates the evolutionary process. Natural selection eliminates harmful changes and embraces beneficial ones, and each change leaves its signature on a species' DNA codes. For example, the Antarctic ice fish today has no red blood cells; yet a fossilized gene for hemoglobin remains in its DNA, showing that the fish has adapted over 55 million years by losing the red blood cells that thicken blood and make it harder to pump in extreme cold. The fish has developed other features that allow it to absorb and circulate blood without hemoglobin. . Carroll points out that by examining the DNA of these ice fish species, it's possible to map its origins as well as the history of the South Atlantic's geology. He also uses dolphins, colobus monkeys and microbes to demonstrate how deeply evolution is etched in DNA. While searches for the genetic basis for evolution are hardly new, Carroll offers some provocative and convincing evidence. 7 pages of color illus.; 50 b&w illus. (Oct.)
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Sensing that many people misunderstand evolution or don't believe it, geneticist Carroll here hopes to teach the interested and convince the doubters. He uses popular interest in animals as his lure and selects specific creatures, beginning with bloodless fishes of the Antarctic seas, as stages for his substantive points about evolution. More particularly, Carroll focuses on specific genes carried by his cast of animals to demonstrate natural selection. Carroll considers the animals' most favorable adaptations, preserved in what he calls "immortal genes"; several hundred are common to all domains of life. Carroll then scales up to the macroscopic and considers traits such as color vision in monkeys; the vision and anatomy of fish, including the famous coelacanth; and the sickle-cell trait in humans. In each case, Carroll explains how the DNA code of the gene responsible for the trait is inferred to be the result of natural selection working on mutations, which occur at a steady rate. Here is evolution clearly explained and stoutly defended. REVWR
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.