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Endless Forms Most Beautiful

4.04  ·  Rating Details ·  3,511 Ratings  ·  145 Reviews
"The greatest spectacle of life is how a single cell - the fertilized egg - develops into a billion- or trillion-celled animal. In the case of humans, that single cell becomes the most complex machine in existence. Scientists have long known that if they could figure out how form and pattern emerge in embryos, they could begin to understand how today's incredibly diverse a ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published April 11th 2005 by W W Norton & Co Inc
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Jul 16, 2012 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biology
This is a fascinating book about developments in genetics and evolution in the past twenty years. Sean Carroll is a leading researcher in the field; his lucid writing style and lively approach make this book a "must-read" for anybody interested in the subject. Plenty of illustrations and drawings help to bring the subject to life.

There are several big mysteries in genetics; humans and primates share 99% of their genes, so why is their development so different? The answer lies in "genetic switche
Jul 20, 2008 Matt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
First of all, I should clarify that I'm no scientist. But I do have an egghead mentality, and I've read plenty on evolution. What I hadn't read was much about developmental biology, and for me, that's where the main benefit of the book came. Although sometimes I wished Carroll would have boiled some of his 30-page chapters down to two or three.

Those are my disclaimers. But I think I gained a lot of insight anyway.

The book's excitement comes in the form of summarizing the "evo devo" movement, the
Elliott Bignell
Apr 11, 2015 Elliott Bignell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is staggeringly rivetting science and lovely science writing. I have been looking for a work on embryology and evolution to clarify some questions about how to design evolutionary algorithms and this was it. At the same time, it opens up a breathtaking vista of how evolution actually happens and how it is constrained. This is one of the few cases where I can honestly say that I feel I understand a whole new set of principles and perspectives after reading that I did not before. It's also an ...more
Mar 01, 2015 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't know how many articles I've read in the last 10+ years that have tried to explain some of the discoveries about how a cell "knows" it should become a liver cell or a skin cell and why we don't end up with shoulder blades in our kidneys. These articles got my level of understanding from "I bet it's complicated" to "It's complicated and has something to do with HOX genes."

Reading this book is the first time I feel I "got it"*, at least somewhat, but based on my own reading history I won't
Sep 21, 2011 Gendou rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, biology
This is a very informative and fascinating book about evolutionary biology and genetics!
While I find the term "Evo Devo" quite silly, it is a deep and illuminating topic.
The author also uses a couple other tacky terms that bugged me:
He refers to the genomic contents not coding for proteins as "dark matter".
He refers to the Cambrian explosion as a "big bang", groan.

The book avoids heavy microbiological details on genetics, focusing instead on how different body parts are made.
The most important c
Jan 25, 2017 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dr. Carroll is one of my favorite authors and speakers. This book is an approachable and an elegant introduction to the world of Evo-Devo. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in how evolution and development influence are continuously influencing each other.
A great introduction and review of the work linking the developmental impact of reusing the master regulatory proteins to control a changing galaxy of specific proteins to alter the final organisms form to fit its habitat.
He details the emergence of the body axes under the Hox proteins and how they work to isolate the expression of genes to promote modularity. Isolation makes regional use of bone, collagen, epithelium etc independent of other modules that also use the same genes. This allows con
I am a biology & chemistry major. My favorite biology professor taught a class essentially dedicated to the deeper and more scientific study of the concepts presented in this book - best class I've ever taken. But, not everyone has the background for, or time to take, a class like that. This book is a very good way for non-science majors to gain a good understanding of some essential and fundamental concepts about how life came to be what it is today (Though do not assume its any sort of "ev ...more
Nov 09, 2011 Cameron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: finished
This is a SUPERB book! Building on Darwin's famous last sentence ("endless forms most beautiful") in the Origin of Species, Carroll gives a wonderful history and account of the science of Evolutionary Developmental Biology (Evo Devo). The story encompasses two broad categories: embryology - how animals develop their forms from embryo to adult, and evolution - how species have developed over the eons through natural selection. Evo devo exploded in the last decade as geneticists have begun to unlo ...more
Jun 19, 2012 Barbm1020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a fine explanation of developmental evolution. It is easy to follow and even entertaining for anybody with an unbiased curiosity about nature. It's an attractive volume with some amazing color plates illustrating some of the experiments that have shown scientists how DNA works in insect larvae. There are also photos of fossils and drawings of various animals as they once appeared and as they exist now. A very important book for all biology teachers, college students, school board me ...more
The writing was much too breathless, in a "gee, look at this butterfly wing!" sort of way. The science got buried in metaphorical cliche'. Writing for a lay audience is always going to be tricky and I think in this case Carroll aimed too low and ended up using too many words that don't say much.

For those interested in another way to approach learning about current evolution theory I strongly recommend checking out the Yale open course available for free online, "Principles of Evolution, Ecology
Feb 20, 2014 Correen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

"i am not so naive to believe that science can solve all the world's problems, but ignorance of science, or denial of it's facts, is courting doom."

I have promised myself that I would read this book since I heard of it not long after it was published. Finally, it is finished and I am sorry to have taken so long. It is a wonderful set of examples of evo-devo that explain the role of tool-kit genes and the switches they contain. The elegance of this evolutionary process is magnificent. He tops off
Troy Blackford
Jan 09, 2014 Troy Blackford rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good book on evolution with a focus on embryological development, and how the genotypic information affects the phenotype from a development standpoint. I was very intrigued, though this book had frequent long, dry passages. That's just what you get when you receive an in-depth examination of complex processes, however.

From the formation of butterflies' complex wing patterns to the camouflaging utility of zebra stripes (and a look at the question: is a zebra black with white stripes or white wi
Jul 21, 2008 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book illustrates the ways in which the new fields of Evo Devo and bioinformatics are revolutionizing biology. The art of interpreting fossils has given way to the new hard science of genome analysis. If you really want to know how evolution works and where complexity comes from, you need to read this book.
Darko Doko
Nov 20, 2016 Darko Doko rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Endless forms most beautiful got to read again and again. Already read it twice.
Jan 16, 2017 Sunny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Evolutionary Developmental Biology is one of the most interesting fields in Biology and medicine in-general. This book describes in great detail about the genes involved in development, and how a certain set in all species might be responsible for the differences in development we see from one species to another. The Hox Box gene system is incredible and should provide further insight into developmental processes.
Shana Yates
Jan 08, 2017 Shana Yates rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars. Excellent book on evolutionary development. The author distills much of the findings of the last two decades in this area of study, and guides the reader through what the discoveries mean and how they further bolster the theory of evolution. For readers interested in biology and evolution, Dr. Carroll is an excellent teacher and guide, offering a brief primer on genetics, explaining how mutants and malfunctions act as a window into gene function, covering how small changes over time v ...more
Jun 08, 2014 Rossdavidh rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: purple
Subtitle: "The New Science of Evo Devo". This cracked up my wife to no end. It's 'branding' for a new movement in biological science, about as hip-sounding as "Extreme Programming". But let's not judge a book by its cover. The author claims that this movement is "Revolution #3", on par with the Darwinian discovery of evolution by natural selection, and Mendel's discovery of genetics. Is it hype? Yes. Is it justified? Maybe...

One thing's for sure: if you like seeing pictures of a lamb born with o
May 08, 2016 Phan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've been exposed again and again to the idea of similarity in genome between human and chimps, they often point to the resemblance in violent, empathic behaviors of us and our closest cousins. This book carries the ideas of genetic divergence further to explain evolution, a new light was shred for me to look at evolution. While other works that i've read often describe evolution in "The strongest survives" style, but Carroll offers a glimse into this natural process with genetic lens by introdu ...more
Sep 20, 2008 Jafar rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ok, this book attempts to address two different problems. The first problem is how an egg is turned into an adult animal. Everyone can appreciate that this is quite an amazing process, but ever thought of its details? As the original single cell stars splitting, how does each cell – all carrying the exact same copy of the DNA – know whether it’s a heart cell or brain cell or liver cell? How does the embryo – nothing more than a tiny collection of cells at this point – know where to put each orga ...more
Aug 26, 2014 Mike rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
This is the text from a blog post that I wrote in November 2005 when I read this book.

I have a background in physics, including a Ph.D., 20 years of research experience, and 10 years of university teaching. Despite all of that background, I can still enjoy and learn from a well written popularization of physics. A good example is Brian Greene's, Elegant Universe, which attempts to explain the beauty and possibilities of string theory. I have wondered what someone who does not have my background
Aug 25, 2014 Darren rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolve ...more
Short take:
Poor technical writing obscures otherwise fascinating content.

Longer take:
First, a bit of background: I'm a computer scientist who studies evolutionary dynamics. I also have a solid background in developmental systems. Thus, when I heard about this book (which is touted across the Internet as THE pop science book on evo-devo), I ran immediately to the library to pick it up.

The book is ambitious, providing a useful and broad history of the scientific and intellectual revolutions tha
Come dice Dawkins (che ha un dono per la visualizzazione anche dei concetti più ostici), il codice genetico non è un “progetto” – come per la costruzione di una casa – ma piuttosto una “ricetta”. I geni master, quindi, sono quei comandi “generici” che tra cuochi tutti sanno interpretare. Non si tratta di dire “qui mi metti due cucchiaini di sale e una spolverata di pepe, con due grammi di cannella” , quanto di dire” qui (e ora) metti le spezie”. Se sei un cuoco romano, questo significa mentuccia ...more
Interesting material, although I didn't find it particularly well explained and the text didn't flow very well in places. But I learned a lot, and so did teenager listening with me.
Apr 10, 2009 Kate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm giving this book five stars because I really want people to read it. It was, for me, a really difficult book to read-- 300+ pages of hard science. It was also amazing, and revealing, and all in all a book I'm really glad I happened across.

Endless Forms Most Beautiful The New Science of Evo Devo is an introduction to Evo Devo-- or, more properly, to evolutionary developmental biology. It explains a lot about the (often surprisingly simple) ways in which life adapts itself to new circumstance
Aug 14, 2007 Dianne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Here's why this book blew my mind. I remember almost everything I learned in high school biology (more than 20 years ago), and there were some things that no one could then explain. What, for instance, triggers some cells to become liver cells while others become skin cells? And, why, once a cell has become a liver cell, can it not produce skin cells? Why do all vertebrates follow roughly the same sequence of embryonic and fetal development?

Those things were a mystery in the 80s, and they were o
Tony duncan
May 07, 2008 Tony duncan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: evolution, understanding science
Shelves: science
I agree with the author that this understanding of the developmental role in genetic expression and evolution is revolutionizing evolutionary theory and should have a big impact on all theories of human nature. One of my mentors. Israel Rosenfield (see my books by him )insisted I read this and it totally blew me away. it explained some thing sI couldn;t seem to fit into how evolution works.

One of the points of this is that the vast amount of evolutionary change doesn't necessarily come from smal
Sep 29, 2009 Patrick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Every animal form is the product of two processes--development from an egg and evolution from its ancestors," writes Sean B. Carroll in his introduction to Endless Forms Most Beautiful. The new science of "evo devo"--or evolutionary developmental biology--examines the relationships between those two processes, embryonic development and evolutionary changes, despite their radically different time scales. Carroll first offers a recap of how genes express themselves in a growing embryo, then peers ...more
Craig Evans
Nov 22, 2016 Craig Evans rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biology
I received a BS in Biology in 1984 and had an affinity toward genetics. This book was written and published in 2005 and referred to advances and discoveries in biology over the preceding 20 years that more firmly supported the idea that forms of insect, fish, mammals, and other animals changed over the hundreds of millions of years of its' existence of this planet.
Over the past decade or so I have made an attempt to remedy that short
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  • At the Water's Edge: Fish with Fingers, Whales with Legs, and How Life Came Ashore but Then Went Back to Sea
  • Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
  • Genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life's Origins
  • Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters
  • What Evolution Is
  • The Structure of Evolutionary Theory
  • Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America's Soul
  • The Variety of Life: A Survey and a Celebration of All the Creatures that Have Ever Lived
  • Evolution: The First Four Billion Years
  • Microcosmos: Four Billion Years of Microbial Evolution
  • Evolution in Four Dimensions: Genetic, Epigenetic, Behavioral, and Symbolic Variation in the History of Life
  • Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction
  • Trilobite: Eyewitness to Evolution
  • Darwin's Ghost: The Origin of Species Updated
  • Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives
  • Written in Stone: Evolution, the Fossil Record, and Our Place in Nature
  • The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene
  • On Growth and Form
Sean B. Carroll (born September 17, 1960) is a professor of molecular biology, genetics, and medical genetics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He studies the evolution of cis-regulation in the context of biological development, using Drosophila as a model system. He is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. Since 2010, he has been vice-president for science education of the Howard ...more
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“Evolution of form is very much a matter of teaching very old genes new tricks!” 1 likes
“While dismembering it, perhaps you might have noted the modular design and admired the great variety of body appendages (figure 1.9). There are several aspects to lobster construction that reflect the general themes of modularity and serial homology. First, the body is organized into a head (with the eyes and mouthparts), a thorax (with walking legs), and a long tail (yum!). Second, different sections of the body possess numbers of specific appendages (antennae, claws, walking legs, swimmerets). And third, each jointed appendage is itself segmented, and different kinds of appendages have different numbers of segments overall (compare a claw with a walking leg). If you were feeling adventuresome and dissected an insect or a crab, you’d see some general similarities in body organization, segmentation, and appendages but, again, differences in the number and kind of serially homologous structures. FIG. 1.9 The diversity of the serially repeated appendages of a lobster. The antennae, claws, walking legs, swimmerets, and tail structures are all modifications of a common limb design. DRAWING BY” 0 likes
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