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Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom

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4.05  ·  Rating details ·  4,227 Ratings  ·  175 Reviews
For over a century, opening the black box of embryonic development was the holy grail of biology. Evo Devo Evolutionary Developmental Biology is the new science that has finally cracked open the box. Within the pages of his rich and riveting book, Sean B. Carroll explains how we are discovering that complex life is ironically much simpler than anyone ever expected.
Paperback, 350 pages
Published April 17th 2006 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published April 11th 2005)
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Kinga
Jul 21, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: pub-2005
You've heard the stories how we share 98% of genes with chimpanzees and something like 30% with daffodils. This seems confusing because we don’t look like we’re one third daffodils. Sean B Carroll’s book tries to explain this conundrum to the general reader by introducing us to the new, exciting field of Evo Devo (Evolutionary Developmental Biology) and giving me another weapon to fight against the creationists (though I don’t think they are particularly interested in having a fact-based debate ...more
David
Jul 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Elliott Bignell
Apr 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Matt
Jul 20, 2008 rated it liked it
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
...more
Mark
Mar 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Elizabeth K.
Jul 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017-new-reads
Well, this was very informative. I had to really buckle in to focus on everything. My favorite part was how Dr. Carroll would start off an explanation with "it's quite simple, actually ..." and then HA HA HA. I am making this sound like a chore, and it wasn't at all. But it was definitely not light reading. The diagrams weren't even light reading.

Usually I read sciencey books like this, and try to hang on to a few important takeaways. So let's see, what did I learn here (other than that I'm jus
...more
Correen
Feb 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing

"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
...more
Jorge
Jun 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5/5.

This book proved to be both one of the most interesting scientific readings I've ever found, and one of the hardest. It is compelling, well-written, engaging and, overall, the best aproach possible to a frankly not-so-simple reading.

And I expected that. The first time I heard about the book, or Evo-devo itself, was when I heard a "Despacito" parody made by Acapellascience where this book was the main source: I knew I would find something equally challenging and interesting. Sean B. Carroll
...more
Dianne
Aug 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Gendou
Sep 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biology, non-fiction
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
...more
Cameron
Nov 09, 2011 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
Barbm1020
Jun 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Lark Benobi
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
...more
Troy Blackford
Jan 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Dave Gaston
Apr 19, 2010 rated it it was ok
Carroll did his best to bring break-through, gene level science down to my level of comprehension. I’m afraid I just didn’t measure up. As an interactive breather, he often paused before a big brainy ah-ha moment and stated, “...that’s right, you’ve probably already guessed the answer to this one....” Well, I never did... not once! To state the obvious, Endless Forms was endlessly over my head. I love the mere topic of evolution, so with an open slack jaw, I numbly chugged through it. Regardless ...more
Valerie
Oct 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
First off...you should watch this. https://youtu.be/ydqReeTV_vk...it is a much better review of the book than I am likely to give here.

Secondly, you should read this. It was engaging, and gave me a fantastic overview of the technology of genetics. How does it all work? What does all of that extra stuff do? What turns it all on or off?

And can someone get me a fruit fly and some eyeless genes?

As for the ending? I am saddened that all science and nature books must end with the obligatory chapter on
...more
Rossdavidh
Jun 08, 2014 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
...more
Son Tung
May 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Jafar
Sep 20, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Nicole
Feb 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Michael
Jul 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Rodzilla
Jul 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Perhaps a difficult read for somebody without a strong background in evolution and the fundamentals of molecular biology. But this book ties together decades of developmental genetics and evolution to lead us to a much deeper understanding of the mechanistic underpinnings of evolution. They key is the evolution of the arthropod body plans and transcription factors controlling spatial identity of tissues. None of this is new as of its 2005 publication, but what it offers is synthesis. Carroll bri ...more
Jake Leech
May 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Superb. If you've have the general high-school version of evolution, with Darwin's natural selection and Mendel's dominant and recessive genes, then you've been exposed to the Modern Synthesis--the theory of evolution hammered out in the early twentieth century. Since roughly the eighties or nineties, evolutionary theory has been moving into the "Extended Modern Synthesis", and a key component of this is Evo Devo.

In Endless Forms Most Beautiful, Carroll gently takes you by the hand and walks you
...more
Dmitry Zinenko
Nov 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
The themes covered by this book are without doubt very important, and some of the chapters are very revealing.
The author does a good job of being accessible to a wide range of readers with or without biological background. He covers a topic that has been fascinating me for a long time - how the complex morphology and physiology of even the simplest animal can develop out of a single cell without external intervention. Most of the time he does that in just the right amount of detail to demonstrat
...more
Chunyang Ding
Mar 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I was directed to read this book from A Capella Science, who created a really wonderful video explaining evo-devo biology. Yet it seemed to make an incredibly bold claim - that the primary cause of evolution was not in gene mutations, but through activating and changing certain signalling genes. This blew my mind - it wasn't covered in any of my bio courses in high school, nor did any of my college friends have any direct information on it. Thus, diving into the source!

Sean Carroll is a wonderfu
...more
Christine
Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
What a tragic irony, that the more we understand biology, the less we have of it to learn from and to enjoy. What will be the legacy of this new century - to cherish and protect Nature, or to see butterflies and zebras and much more vanish into legend like the thylacine, moa, and dodo?
-------------------------------------

Rating: 5/5

Definitely one of my favorite non-fiction books. Carroll manages to explain such complex biology in ways that a novice can easily understand (which is super hard!). H
...more
Robin
Jan 17, 2018 rated it liked it
While the material was interesting I felt it wasn't that easy to read. But the formatting on the kindle with the black and white images might have something to do with this. There seemed to have been some images missing which made half a chapter very confusing.

I also think that most people would probably need a bit more background to fully understand what is written and it was a bit difficult to understand at times.

Overall it had some interesting points but think the kindle-format hurt it quite
...more
Hannah
Dec 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: special-books
This book started out so strong that I was thrilled. It's not often you come across a book for the layman that goes into signal pathways and genetic switches. However, after I had finished the first third of the book the strength and wow factor started to wean until I felt Dr Carroll was just plain waffling. I wish there was more hard science in this book more pathways and transcription factors but all you see is literally in the first part. It is still a good read and one I would recommend but ...more
Cecilie Hjort
Jan 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As a layman, I don't understand everything in this book. Sometimes it delves too deep into things like gene inhibitors and formulas for me to follow. But for those who have a bit of tolerance for having to skip some parts because they become a little complicated to follow without the relevant education, this book is a mind-blowing insight into the programming, as it were, of organisms. It offers a much deeper and more visceral understanding of the development and evolution of animals than most p ...more
Elizabeth
Jul 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is a massive and bewildering gap in biology education, even to some extent to the tertiary level, between genetics and the study of development and form. This book is essential to anyone who wants/needs that gap filled.
This book is absorbingly written and very well ordered. It also has an excellent "further reading section", of which several books will be hitting my "want to read" shelf very soon...
My only quibble is that the plates don't exactly match the description in the text, and the
...more
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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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