The book's somewhat controversial argument is that evolution in animals (though no doubt similar processes occur in other organisms) proceeds mostly by modifying the way that regulatory genes, which do not code for structural proteins (such as enzymes), control embryonic development. In turn, these regulatory genes turn out to be based on a very old set of highly conserved genes which Carroll nicknames the toolkit. Almost identical sequences can be found across the animal kingdom, meaning that toolkit genes such as Hox must have evolved before the Cambrian radiation which created most of the animal body plans that exist today. These genes are used and reused, occasionally by duplication but far more often by being applied unchanged to new functions. Thus the same signal may be given at a different time in development, in a different part of the embryo, creating a different effect on the adult body. In Carroll's view, this explains how so many body forms are created with so few structural genes. (Full article...)
The following are images from various evolutionary biology-related articles on Wikipedia.
Image 1The distribution of fitness effects (DFE) of mutations in vesicular stomatitis virus. In this experiment, random mutations were introduced into the virus by site-directed mutagenesis, and the fitness of each mutant was compared with the ancestral type. A fitness of zero, less than one, one, more than one, respectively, indicates that mutations are lethal, deleterious, neutral, and advantageous. (from Mutation)
Image 5Speciation via polyploidy: A diploid cell undergoes failed meiosis, producing diploid gametes, which self-fertilize to produce a tetraploid zygote. In plants, this can effectively be a new species, reproductively isolated from its parents, and able to reproduce. (from Speciation)
The last known Thylacine photographed at Hobart (formerly Beaumaris) Zoo in 1933. A scrotal sac is not visible in this or any other of the photos or film taken, leading to the supposition that "Benjamin" was a female, but the existence of a scrotal pouch in the Thylacine makes it impossible to be certain
... that despite the relative rarity of suitable conditions for fossilization, approximately 250,000 fossil species are known?
... that all forms of natural speciation have taken place over the course of evolution, though it still remains a subject of debate as to the relative importance of each mechanism in driving biodiversity?
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