Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Evo-Devo in U.S News and World Report

I just came across this interesting article in US News and World Report about biologist Sean Carroll of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Carroll's recent evo-devo book Endless Forms Most Beautiful is excellent. I will have more to say about it in some future post.

For now, here are two excerpts from the U. S. News article:

We're living at a strange moment in America. Once again, evolution is becoming a controversial topic. But while school boards are revisiting the 19th-century debate over whether evolution even happens, 21st-century scientists are beginning to show exactly how the natural phenomenon works. Using the powerful tools of molecular biology and comparative genomics, they're finding specific changes in the DNA that can account for 17,000 species of butterfly or why insects have only six legs instead of a dozen. And while some 55 percent of Americans balk at the idea that humans evolved at all, analysis of the genes that build our bodies shows our clear kinship not just to the apes but all the way back to bugs, worms, and beyond. Along the way, scientists are starting to find concrete explanations for everything from our large brains to just exactly how the fruit fly--or the leopard, for that matter--got its spots.

And later:

That discovery pointed to the deep connections between all animals and helped scientists work out the complex details of development. But it also raised a new problem: If key developmental genes have remained largely unchanged throughout evolutionary history, how can we account for all the differences, great and small, between different species? In some cases, the answer turned out to be a process of duplication and innovation. Several key points in animal evolution are associated with an increase in the number of developmental genes. The resulting redundancy in the control system, Carroll says, allowed evolution to “experiment” with new developmental programs and body forms, allowing vertebrates to develop distinctive features like skulls and jaws, for example, without hopelessly messing up other body parts.


At 8:00 PM, Blogger Joseph Duemer said...

I think I could turn and live with animals, they're so placid and self-contain'd,
I stand and look at them long and long.

They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things,
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago,
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.

So they show their relations to me and I accept them,
They bring me tokens of myself, they evince them plainly in their possession.

I wonder where they get those tokens,
Did I pass that way huge times ago and negligently drop them?

Myself moving forward then and now and forever,
Gathering and showing more always and with velocity,
Infinite and omnigenous, and the like of these among them,
Not too exclusive toward the reachers of my remembrancers,
Picking out here one that I love, and now go with him on brotherly terms.

A gigantic beauty of a stallion, fresh and responsive to my caresses,
Head high in the forehead, wide between the ears,
Limbs glossy and supple, tail dusting the ground,
Eyes full of sparkling wickedness, ears finely cut, flexibly moving.

His nostrils dilate as my heels embrace him,
His well-built limbs tremble with pleasure as we race around and return.
I but use you a minute, then I resign you, stallion,
Why do I need your paces when I myself out-gallop them?
Even as I stand or sit passing faster than you.

[Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself," section 32.]

At 11:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I'm sophisticated
'Cos I'm living my life like a good homosapien
But all around me everybody's multiplying
Till they're walking round like flies man
So I'm no better than the animals sitting in their cages
in the zoo man
'Cos compared to the flowers and the birds and the trees
I am an ape man

I think I'm so educated and I'm so civilized
'Cos I'm a strict vegetarian
But with the over-population and inflation and starvation
And the crazy politicians

I don't feel safe in this world no more
I don't want to die in a nuclear war
I want to sail away to a distant shore and make like an ape man

I'm an ape man, I'm an ape ape man
I'm an ape man
I'm a King Kong man I'm ape ape man
I'm an ape man
'Cos compared to the sun that sits in the sky
compared to the clouds as they roll by
Compared to the bugs and the spiders and flies
I am an ape man

In man's evolution he has created the cities and
the motor traffic rumble, but give me half a chance
and I'd be taking off my clothes and living in the jungle

'Cos the only time that I feel at ease
Is swinging up and down in a coconut tree
Oh what a life of luxury to be like an ape man

I'm an ape, I'm an ape ape man, I'm an ape man
I'm a King Kong man, I'm a voo-doo man
I'm an ape man
I look out my window, but I can't see the sky
'Cos the air pollution is fogging up my eyes
I want to get out of this city alive
And make like an ape man

Come and love me, be my ape man girl
And we will be so happy in my ape man world

I'm an ape man, I'm an ape ape man, I'm an ape man
I'm a King Kong man, I'm a voo-doo man
I'm an ape man

I'll be your Tarzan, you'll be my Jane
I'll keep you warm and you'll keep me sane
and we'll sit in the trees and eat bananas all day
Just like an ape man

I'm an ape man, I'm an ape ape man, I'm an ape man
I'm a King Kong man, I'm a voo-doo man
I'm an ape man.
I don't feel safe in this world no more
I don't want to die in a nuclear war
I want to sail away to a distant shore
And make like an ape man.

[Ray Davies of the Kinks]


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