Chapter 3: Tool kit! (Comments due Wednesday 2/11)

In the third chapter of Endless Forms Most Beautiful, we get to review some of the concepts we've been learning about in lecture regarding gene expression. Some questions to consider:

  • Does a review of basic concepts in a popular nonfiction book help you to understand the ideas better, or is it confusing to have ideas explained in different, less formal language than your textbook uses? I'm thinking here specifically of Chapter 3's discussion of transcription and translation on pages 54-60, and figures 3.2 and 3.3.
  • What is the evolutionary significance of same or at least stunningly similar homeobox genes controlling embryonic development in fruit flies and mice? Is this homology surprising (as it seemed to be to biologists like Ernst Mayr), or expected?
  • Carroll concludes this chapter by discussing the relationship between freaktastic cyclops stillborn lambs, cyclopamine, the Sonic hedgehog gene, and cancer. Reflect for a moment on the role of serendipity in scientific discovery. Were the folks who discovered that Californian lilies caused freaky birth defects in lambs looking for a cure for cancer? How often could such fortuitous discoveries be made if humans did not share a huge set of homologous genes with other animals?
  • Going back to my grad school stats prof with the additional bonus thumb, what specific alteration in gene expression do you think was responsible for his extra digit?

Please post your answers to these questions (using the "discuss" tab at the bottom of this page) no later than 9:00 a.m. this Wednesday, February 11.

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