Linking genes and evolution

As a human, which I assume you are if you are reading this blog :), you have probably wondered how did different species evolve? How did four-limbed vertebrates move from water to land (and back to water again)? How did we become human? And, why are we the only species that cares about any of these questions? ‘The Modern Synthesis’ is a term used since the mid-twentieth century to refer to the understanding that evolution of new forms and species is determined by genetics. A more recent term ‘evo-devo’, from ‘evolutionary developmental biology’, refers to the study of evolution through evidence based on embryonic development – which is closely linked with gene expression. The following NOVA documentary, originally aired in 2009 for the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species and Darwin’s 200th birthday, features an all-star cast of evolutionary biologists who do amazing work researching and writing to understand the links among genetics, development, and the evolution of new forms. In particular, the documentary is inspired by the works of Sean Carroll, Endless Forms Most Beautiful (read it and highly recommend) and The Making of the Fittest (on my list to read soon). While there are some things about the film that I could nit-pick, overall it’s a very interesting 2 hours and worth watching through to the end. Although we still can’t quite answer all of the above questions, we’re getting closer.

What Darwin Never Knew

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