More development. More evolution. More genes. More fish. Cichlid jaws!

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A curious thing: I reported yesterday on this lovely work on the genetic regulation of pelvic limbs in fish, and got a comment that the "modularity and surprisingly robust flexibility" of the system was evidence of design. Quite the contrary, I see evidence of mechanisms that permit integrated evolution of organisms, with no designer required. There's another example briefly described in a news article in this week's Science (Pennisi, 2004) that describes work presented at a Cold Spring Harbor conference on the evolution of developmental diversity. It expands further on this matter.

Cichlid fishes are examples of a recent, rapid radiation into new forms. One of the reasons behind their success seems to be the adaptability of their jaws, which have allowed them to diversify into many ecological niches by changes in their feeding apparatus (Albertson et al., 1999, 2003). What's becoming clear is that the modular and interlinked network of regulatory genes does not hinder change, it facilitates concordant change in the patterns of expression of multiple genes to produce an integrated morphology of the jaw.

Continue reading "More development. More evolution. More genes. More fish. Cichlid jaws!" (on Pharyngula)

1 Comment

I see no conflict between evolutionary science and the claim that “God designed it all.” I don’t happen to believe that claim, but I think a lot of progress could be made to close the modern rift between religion and science if we allowed more room for that opinion. From fish pelvises to DNA, it all really is incredible. I have no trouble seeing how someone could ascribe them to some designer. We should encourage people that feel that way to understand that science doesn’t rule that out, it merely explains the mechanism their designer used.

Frankly, if you believe in a designer, the more you know about what science has learned about the whole process, the more amazing the designer seems. I’m frankly puzzled by those people that would rather imagine that God created humans out of a handful of earth via some kind of parlor magic trick. Now inventing a process that encourages variations and then allows superior variations to flourish: that’s worthy of a deity!

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This page contains a single entry by PZ Myers published on April 16, 2004 7:40 AM.

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