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Book review: Sean Carroll’s ‘the Making of the Fittest’

Sean Carroll’s ‘The Making of the Fittest‘ shows up in a number of reference lists for thinkBio; the reason is that he’s put together a wonderful compendium of topics that can make for a compelling Introductory Biology experience. They’re basically molecules whose evolutionary history and roles are interesting and well-understood. The book packages them into interesting units, and also provides a wealth of resources for an instructor wishing to make sure he/she has a sound background in the material being taught.

Topics from the book that I’ve found useful (and that appear as thinkBio exercises) include the ┬ásickle cell anemia vs. malaria, several fascinating opsin stories (loss and regain of 3rd human color receptor; adaptation of mammals to blue wavelengths in deep water; birds and UV vision), the comings and goings of pigmentation via the MC1R gene, and the anti-cancer drug Gleevec (as of 1-23-2015, this is part of a Molecular Medicine module that isn’t posted).

The above is just the subset of The Making of the Fittest that overlaps with content on this website; there are tons of other interesting stories, all targeted at revealing the molecular evidence for evolution and written in such a way as to be accessible to the thoughtful layperson. I have found it to be both an enjoyable read as well as an educational resource, both for my own learning and for assembling teaching modules.

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