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Making Of The Fittest [Paperback]

Sean B Carroll
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 28 2007 0393330516 978-0393330519 Reprint
DNA, the genetic blueprint of all creatures, is a stunningly rich and detailed record of evolution. Every change or new trait, from the gaudy colors of tropical birds to our color vision with which we admire them, is due to changes in DNA that leave a record and can be traced. Just as importantly, the DNA evidence has revealed several profound surprises about how evolution actually works.

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Making Of The Fittest + Remarkable Creatures: Epic Adventures in the Search for the Origins of Species
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From Publishers Weekly

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Building from basics Feb. 11 2007
By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
It's a sad commentary that any book on biology published in the US must devote pages and ink to refuting the rants of "anti-Darwinists" in that nation. Richard Dawkins ["The Selfish Gene"] holds a chair at promoting "Public Understanding of Science" at Oxford. Carroll, whose role as a professor of genetics provides firm underpinning, is establishing himself in a similar niche in the US. This book is an example of how well he can fulfill that undertaking. In his previous work "Endless Forms Most Beautiful", Carroll described some of the manifestations of the genome's activities. In this book he delves more into today's operations within the genome and how those were derived from the distant past.

The author's selection of examples to explain DNA's role in life may seem bizarre at first glance: "icefish" carrying "anti-freeze" in their bodies, what humble pigeons tell us about life, and what human skin colour really means. Each of his examples carries an historical record of how they came to be that way. Evolution, he reminds us, builds upon what went before. Once a trait, no matter how "primitive", is established, mutation may improve its possibility of success down the generations. "Primitive", by the way, is a term Carroll shuns, since those traits that survive are clearly best suited for that organism in that time and place. It's important to understand that, since a good many health issues relying on genetic research must be considered in the light of environmental conditions. Infectious organisms change to cope with treatment and medicines must be developed to cope with their adaptations. This is the record of life, with the earliest genes bifurcating to form new traits with the passage of time and new conditions.

Carroll's chapters address a number of life's little quirks.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Convincing new evidence for evolution Dec 26 2006
By Eric Lawton TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
The author spells out in an easy-to-follow but rigorous fashion the molecular, DNA, evidence for evolution. He selects a few characteristics such as the lack of blood in ice fish, and the presence of colour vision in old world apes and uses them to demonstrate how the genes must have evolved. He also shows independent DNA evidence from junk DNA which shows the same family trees. All of this in the same clear style in the author's previous work "Endless Forms Most Beautiful". A must read for anyone interested in a readable summary of the latest compelling research in molecular biology, accessible to the layperson with no prior knowledge of the subject.
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By John Kwok TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Distinguished evolutionary developmental biologist Sean B. Carroll's "The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution" is a superb popular introduction to some of the most important principles of biological evolution and of the key role which DNA plays in affecting biological evolution, and thusly, influencing both the current composition and structure of Planet Earth's biodiversity. Moreover, Carroll stresses the relatively new role in which DNA evidence has played - and continues to play - in understanding the timing of events in the history of life on Planet Earth which includes the development of "antifreeze" in certain species of Antarctic teleost fish (Chapter 1) recognizing the relative "unity of all life" which, via DNA evidence, demonstrates that all life on Earth shares a common ancestor (Chapter 3), the origins of color vision in animals (Chapter 4), the history of many lineages as represented in their currently inactive "fossil genes" (Chapter 5) and why evolution tends to repeat itself in different lineages of animals (Chapter 6). One of the most lucid accounts on the nature of Natural Selection is offered by Carroll in a chapter (Chapter 2) that stresses the mathematics of Natural Selection, giving readers a succinct understanding as to how Natural Selection works as the primary mechanism for biological evolution. He also succeeds in introducing readers to the concept of coevolutionary arms races and, in citing the prevalence of the sickle cell trait in Africans and Afro-Americans, demonstrates how this trait - as the result of a coevolutionary arms race with African pathogens - is an excellent example of evolution's "improvised" nature, lacking any preconceived, premeditated conception of evolutionary progress or intelligent design. Read more ›
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pretty fit itself Dec 2 2007
By toronto
Format:Paperback
This is a terrific book -- one of the few that really does take you by the hand through the DNA universe without wearying you. I agree with the other reviewer: the last chapter is depressing, and really a waste of paper -- another defence of evolution? The whole book is a defence of evolution.

I am recommending this to friends, and am heading out to buy (yes in a store) his other book, EvoDevo.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very good book, but wanders towards the end Jan. 13 2010
By A. Volk #1 REVIEWER #1 HALL OF FAME
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a very good book on how evolution works at the level of DNA. Carroll describes how DNA likely evolved, and how we can analyze DNA to better understand how evolution works. This is the meat and potatoes of the book, with Carroll illustrating how adaptations are gained, selected, and lost, and how all of that evolutionary history is recorded in the DNA of different species. Color vision is his pet example, and it is well-studied enough for him to provide a very detailed, very broad coverage of its evolution in numerous animal species. For anyone interested in genetics or evolution, this book is a very interesting read.

Sadly, the second last chapter is devoted to arguing against those who doubt evolution. While I appreciate the author providing "ammunition" for those who confront such people, what so many evolutionary authors miss is that it isn't an issue of the facts. Those are blatantly obvious and abundant. Rather, it's about faith, which is a much subtler issue. So I don't know how effective this chapter really is. The last chapter is about extinction of the fittest, or how humanity is screwing wildlife across the globe (he focuses primarily on overfishing). That's certainly true, but again, I don't know if more facts is the best solution. Anyone who knows anything knows that we're badly overfishing the oceans.

But I don't want these two preachy, out-of-place chapters to take away from the really good science of the book. I don't even disagree with the content of the two chapters, just their inclusion in an otherwise fact-based exploration of what DNA reveals about the principles of evolution, and its history on Earth. Very interesting stuff indeed!
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