Sudden Origins: Fossils, Genes, and the Emergence of Species

Jeffrey H. Schwartz, Author John Wiley & Sons $27.95 (432p) ISBN 978-0-471-32985-5
Anthropology professor (Univ. of Pittsburgh) Schwartz's latest tome (after The Red Ape) is best viewed as a combination of three books that are only loosely tied together. The first blends changing ideas about human ancestors, a brief summary of their fossil evidence and a look at some of the dominant figures in archeology to provide a historical overview of human evolution. The second reviews theories about the origins of species while providing a somewhat idiosyncratic history of evolutionary biology from Charles Darwin to the present. The third, and briefest, offers Schwartz's ideas on how new species arise. Like many scientists before him, Schwartz argues that regulatory genes called homeobox genes, which were discovered in the 1980s, control developmental processes in such a way that small alterations to their structure can lead to major shifts in organisms, possibly even creating new species. Stressing the importance of an integrated approach to the study of evolution, Schwartz contends that ""there is a very real need to return the study of comparative morphology, and especially development, to the fore of evolutionary biology."" Perhaps. But his dense book is neither sufficiently innovative to gain the attention of most experts nor sufficiently eloquent to hold the interest of the general science reader. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 01/04/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 432 pages - 978-0-471-37912-6
Ebook - 432 pages - 978-0-470-34844-4
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