The Mystery of Metamorphosis: A Scientific Detective Story

Frank P Ryan, Author
Frank Ryan.. Chelsea Green, $26.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-60358-341-1
Reviewed on: 03/21/2011
Release date: 04/01/2011
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Metamorphosis, or the dramatic physical change from one life stage to another (such as with insects and amphibians), is one of nature's most fascinating enigmas. As Ryan (Virolution, Darwin's Blind Spot) so movingly notes, "even in its scientific exploration, metamorphosis remains both awesome and beautiful." In his attempt to unwrap the mystery of metamorphosis, Ryan explores some of the field's most important players, summarizes some of the complex biological phenomena, and discusses its implications for disease prevention. But much of Ryan's material is so technical that it will likely be accessible to only scientifically sophisticated readers. Ryan hypothesizes about how controversial ideas on the subject may cause us to rethink some basic evolutionary principles. In particular, he examines the work of Don Williamson, a marine biologist, who believes that metamorphosis is due to the hybridization of very distinct life forms. If correct, this means that dramatically different species, from widely diverse phyla, occasionally come together and create completely new life forms. Readers willing to fight their way through the technical developmental biology presented will be left with more questions than answers. (May)
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