Patterns in Evolution: The New Molecular View ("Scientific American" Library)

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9780716750697: Patterns in Evolution: The New Molecular View (

In Patterns in Evolution, noted science journalist Roger Lewin explores how genetic information is providing new insight into evolutionary events: scientists are now able to study evolutionary change at the molecular level and reconstruct evolutionary lineages based on changes in DNA. With this new ability, they are overthrowing established ideas about which organisms are closely related and solving puzzles that had previously seemed beyond their reach. Lewin looks at how these new techniques are being used to explore a wide range of issues, from those regarding the deepest past to those concerned with the most recent present - from characterizing the universal ancestor of all life to tracking the trail of infection of the AIDS virus. The techniques have proved especially useful to anthropologists in their attempts to unravel the origins, both ancient and modern, of the human species.
Evolutionary biologists put the new genetic tools to especially creative use in their studies of ecology and animal behavior, which lead to fresh perspectives on why species diverge and new species emerge. Lewin shows how the tools are supplying answers to questions as diverse as why some turtles migrate thousands of miles to breed, why species have particular mating patterns, and how the interplay of geology and climate determine the evolution of new species.
Finally, Lewin looks at how scientists are resurrecting the DNA from animals long dead, including 5000-year-old mummies and 95-million-year-old insects trapped in amber, to give concrete answers to questions about the past. He shows how wolf skins stored in museums are guiding conservation efforts, how human remains from thousands of years ago are shedding light on ancient mating patterns, and how long-buried fossils are tempting scientists to undertake the challenge of recovering dinosaur DNA. A skilled storyteller, Roger Lewin brings to vivid life the investigations that are revealing not just the history of life, but the mechanisms of its evolution.

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About the Author:

Roger Lewin is an associate of the Peabody Museum, Harvard University.

Review:

Patterns Of Evolution reveals how amazing new tools of molecular biology are reshaping modern natural history. Powerful methods of analyzing DNA extracted from organisms (whether living or dead for thousands, even millions of years) are giving biologists access to the most fundamental information of life: genes and how they change through time. The scope of the information DNA analysis is able to provide is enormous, spanning everything from questions of present-day behavior to the ancient problems of the origin of life and its earliest forms. Evolutionary biologists put these new genetic tools to creative use in their studies of ecology and animal behavior, infection disease, mating patterns, and so much more! Roger Lewin is a gifted science writer with a storyteller's flair, bringing to vivid life the investigations that are revealing as both the history of life and the mechanisms by which that life has evolved. -- Midwest Book Review

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