Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Plausbility of Life: Resolving Darwin's Dilemma

Michael White of Adaptive Complexity has written a multipart review of Kirschner and Gerhart’s The Plausbility of Life. White's posts are great reads and have made me want to buy the book. The general point made is that nature is a prolific recycler. Old tools are co-opted for new uses time and time again.

"It is much easier for an insect or vertebrate lineage to evolve new types of limbs, for example, than it is for a mollusc to evolve webbed feet. Why? Because insects and vertebrates already have the molecular toolkit for making limbs; to make a new type of limb (such as wings on a bat or dragonfly) requires only some tweaks to that tool kit - bats and insects did not have to evolve wings from scratch."

I find it appealing that molecular biologists are becoming increasingly interested in evolution, and that evolutionary biologists are becoming increasingly interested in molecular biology. The great schism in the field of biology during the 50's and 60's was certainly an artificial one, but seldom since have researchers ventured far beyond disciplinary lines.

Read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 here.

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