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Publisher's Summary

For over a century, opening the black box of embryonic development was the holy grail of biology. Evo Devo--Evolutionary Developmental Biology--is the new science that has finally cracked open the box. Within the pages of his rich and riveting book, Sean B. Carroll explains how we are discovering that complex life is ironically much simpler than anyone ever expected. Perhaps the most surprising finding of Evo Devo is the discovery that a small number of primitive genes led to the formation of fundamental organs and appendages "in all animal forms."

The gene that causes humans to form arms and legs is the same gene that causes birds and insects to form wings, and fish to form fins; similarly, one ancient gene has led to the creation of eyes across the animal kingdom. Changes in the way this ancient tool kit of genes is used have created all the diversity that surrounds us.

Sean Carroll is the ideal author to lead the curious on this intellectual adventure--he is the acknowledged leader of the field, and his seminal discoveries have been featured in Time and The New York Times".

©2009 Sean B Carroll; (P)2009 Brilliance Audio, Inc.

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  • Overall

Challenging but rewarding

This is a book that requires close attention and a good working knowledge of genetic terms. It may be frustrating or just plain too difficult for those not versed in at least the basics of genetics, developmental biology, especially some basic embryology, and modern evolutionary theory. The specialist's terms come fast and furious in spite of a very able narrator. If you are hopelessly lost when someone says "homeotic Hox gene" then perhaps easing into this topic would be better than trying to listen to this book, or at least have the Wikipedia handy and be prepared to stop and do a lot of term checking. For the experienced student it is outstanding. Even for the uninitiated generalist, however, the final chapters on human evolution and evolutionary science vs. fundamentalist ignorance are outstanding.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Thomas
  • North LibetyThailand
  • 03-13-10

Better in Print

I love audio books, but this one should be read in print. The narrator is fine. It is just too hard to visualize while doing anything else. And if you're not doing anything else, why not read a book? There may be important diagrams, I don't know. Tantor audio books refer you to their web site for visuals. Not this one.

As for the science and thought, could not be better. Great work by a fine scientist about a critically important branch of biology.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Joan
  • Jacksonville, FL, USA
  • 04-10-10

Good science, needs pictures

As a professional biologist, I enjoyed the book very much. But, and this is a big but, if you don't know any developmental biology I'm afraid you'll get lost. I checked the hard copy out of the library so I could see the pictures. My advice is to borrow the book and look while you listen.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Harry
  • United States
  • 07-22-11

Keep your finger on rewind...

I am not a biologist and I had only a passing familiarity with evo-devo in my head -- but I still found this book intensely engrossing and readable. You have to really pay attention and learn the terminology as you go (i.e. not necessarily a good read in the car because I think you may need to rewind & re-listen quite a bit -- I listened to it while hiking and had my Ipod in my hand the whole time) because the narrative builds heavily upon early information rather steadily throughout the book. Perhaps you have heard the term evo-devo before, or epigenetics, or read something about HOX, or toolkit, genes. Perhaps you also found other titles on evolution good reads -- like "Why Evolution is True" (Coyne) and "Greatest Show on Earth" (Dawkins) -- but their material was a bit too basic for you. Then, I think this book is a great "next step" on the topic of Evolutionary theory for the layman. It may not be quite the "casual read" that the Coyne and Dawkins books were, but, if you want a readable introduction to evo-devo, I think Carroll did a wonderful job at introducing the topic to the non-professional in this book. I loved it.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Nathan
  • Atlanta, GA, USA
  • 10-04-09

Try the author’s other books first

After enjoying to all of Sean Carroll's audio books, this is my least favorite. It's not a book where you try to catch every detail that the author is communicating, but listen for the general conclusion.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Educational, dense, but worthwhile

Any additional comments?

4.5 stars. Excellent book on evolutionary development. The author distills much of the findings of the last two decades in this area of study, and guides the reader through what the discoveries mean and how they further bolster the theory of evolution. For readers interested in biology and evolution, Dr. Carroll is an excellent teacher and guide, offering a brief primer on genetics, explaining how mutants and malfunctions act as a window into gene function, covering how small changes over time via gene activation and adaptation inexorably led to current lifeforms, and ending with an impassioned and all-too-timely argument in favor of scientific literacy. Highly recommended.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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I think there is a good story to be told about the discoveries of evo-devo, but this book fails to excite. There is too much detail for an audio book. The flat narration didn't help.

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brilliantly done.

The science of evo-devo is compelling. presented here in a logical fashion with many examples.

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  • David F.
  • Fairfield, CT, United States
  • 10-17-17

Good but Deep

Lots of great information and a fun adventure in science. This was one of those books that was sometimes difficult to follow in an audio format. It came together but lots to follow and digest.

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Great topic, flat delivery

I'd consider the written book rather than the audio, especially if it has diagrams/illustrations. This is a fantastic book in the content, Evo Devo is essential for anyone seriously about evolution. Development is not a black box anymore. The author explains the fabulously modular way genes work *before* the creature is fully assembled with switches causing the same genes to do different things at different times -- meaning it's even simpler in a way that you probably thought. Yet more complicated too and I found myself wanting to flip back and take notes ... and see some illustrations.

My criticism is in the delivery, mainly the narration which is a slog. He's consistent and competent, good pace, strong voice, he articulates every word ... but with no variation in tone or apparent enthusiasm whatsoever. Every sentence sounds identical, it might as well have been machine language, and that doesn't work so well here. The writing may be a little dry too compared to what it could be, and the effect is murderous. But that said, I still am impressed.

I listened to the audio but bought the book too ... I won't be listening again but will flip back through the paper version for a refresher.