Arrival of the Fittest: Solving Evolution's Greatest Puzzle by Andreas Wagner

By Andreas Wagner

“Natural choice can shield thoughts, however it can't create them. Nature’s many innovations—some uncannily perfect—call for traditional rules that speed up life’s skill to innovate.”

Darwin’s conception of normal choice explains how important diversifications are preserved through the years. however the largest secret approximately evolution eluded him. As genetics pioneer Hugo de Vries positioned it, “natural choice may possibly clarify the survival of the fittest, however it can't clarify the arriving of the fittest.”

Can random mutations over a trifling 3.8 billion years rather be chargeable for wings, eyeballs, knees, camouflage, lactose digestion, photosynthesis, and the remainder of nature’s artistic marvels? And if the answer's no, what's the mechanism that explains evolution’s pace and efficiency?

In Arrival of the Fittest, popular evolutionary biologist Andreas Wagner attracts on over fifteen years of study to provide the lacking piece in Darwin's idea. utilizing experimental and computational applied sciences that have been heretofore unimagined, he has discovered that diversifications usually are not simply pushed unintentionally, yet by way of a collection of legislation that let nature to find new molecules and mechanisms in a fragment of the time that random edition could take.

Consider the Arctic cod, a fish that lives and prospers inside of six levels of the North Pole, in waters that frequently fall less than zero levels. At that temperature, the inner fluids of such a lot organisms develop into ice crystals. And but, the arctic cod survives by means of generating proteins that decrease the freezing temperature of its physique fluids, very like antifreeze does for a car’s engine coolant. the discovery of these proteins is an archetypal instance of nature’s huge, immense powers of creativity.

Meticulously researched, conscientiously argued, evocatively written, and entire of attention-grabbing examples from the animal country, Arrival of the Fittest bargains up the ultimate puzzle piece within the secret of life’s wealthy diversity.

Publication date: 10/2/2014
Pages: 304

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Sample text

DNA hints that our new and swarthy appearance arose about a million years before the present. At just that time, our ancestors began to move from the forests to the sun-baked savannahs. Long legs and arms and a distinct nose (not found in chimps) also emerged, perhaps to cope with life in the sun. In addition, we lost our hair - perhaps to cool down - and dark skin was favoured as it protected against the harmful effects of ultraviolet light. The colour of the skin turns on the amount of a pigment called melanin.

Now, genetics has begun to tell the tale in the language of DNA. James Watson’s auto-icon disclosed no more than half his secrets for it contained just one of the two versions of the double helix present in each cell. His rival in the race to decipher the secrets of life, the biologist and businessman Craig Venter, was less reticent. He read off both his copies, that received from his father and that from his mother. Venter was happy to reveal its contents: his father died young of a heart attack, and he has himself been bequeathed a variant that predisposes to the disease.

How important is the part - often a small part - of each gene that codes for proteins compared with the on and off switches, the accelerators and brakes, and the rest of the control machinery? We do not know. Even the size of the package makes little sense. A chicken has slightly less DNA than does a Nobel laureate but half its genes are identical, or almost so, to our own - evidence, given that we last shared an ancestor three hundred million years ago, of how conservative evolution can be. A tiny plant called Arabidopsis, a relative of the Brussels sprout, has more genes than either.

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Arrival of the Fittest: Solving Evolution's Greatest Puzzle by Andreas Wagner
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