Carroll, Sean B. 1960-
Carroll, Sean B. 1960-
Born September 17, 1960; married; wife's name Jamie; children: four (including two stepchildren). Education: Washington University, St. Louis, B.A.; Tufts University School of Medicine, Ph.D., 1983; post-doctoral research at University of Colorado, Boulder.
Geneticist, biologist, educator, researcher, and writer. University of Wisconsin—Madison, professor of molecular biology, genetics, and medical genetics, 1987—; Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Chevy Chase, MD, investigator, beginning 1990. Previously postdoctoral researcher at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
(With Jennifer K. Grenier and Scott D. Weatherbee) From DNA to Diversity: Molecular Genetics and the Evolution of Animal Design, Blackwell Science (Malden, MA), 2001, 2nd edition, 2005.
Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom, illustrations by Jamie W. Carroll and Leanne M. Olds, Norton (New York, NY), 2005.
The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution, W.W. Norton & Co. (New York, NY), 2006.
Contributor to scientific journals.
Sean B. Carroll is a leader in the use of DNA evidence to deepen the understanding of evolution, which has traditionally relied on fossil and other morphological evidence. This new science of evolutionary developmental biology, dubbed "Evo Devo," is "concerned with the making and evolution of form," Carroll explained to Andrew Albanese in an interview for the Library Journal. "There is an intimate connection between development, the process of making a complex creature beginning with a simple egg, and evolution. All changes in form are due to changes in development."
In Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom, "Carroll combines clear writing with the deep knowledge gained from a lifetime of genetics research," a Publishers Weekly contributor wrote, to give the general reader a basic understanding of this science and its goals. Among the revelations are the discovery of "Hox genes" that determine the shape of an animal from head to toe and apparently occur in every vertebrate. Carroll describes the complicated method of switches that allow certain genes to develop everything from legs and arms to wings and flippers. "Admittedly, taking in all the details of these discoveries in the early chapters can be heavy going," noted a Kirkus Reviews contributor, "but if the reader persists, there are delights to come." These include explanations of the eyespots on butterfly wings, the unique stripe patterns of zebras, and why some people grow red hair. Carroll continues to push the frontiers of Evo Devo, exploring such large questions as the constant recurrence of certain forms in widely varied species and the truly mysterious origins of new behaviors within the animal kingdom, such as the beginning of bird songs and the creation of long-term parental care of the young.
In his next book, The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution, Carroll once again focuses on evolution and the specific genes car- ried by animals that lead to natural selection. Part of his reason for writing the book was the author's growing concern over anti-Darwinists who claim that evolution does not have a sound scientific basis. In an interview with Josie Glausiusz on the Discover Web site, Carroll commented that "there has been a flood of wonderful and, I think, profound discoveries in just the last few years that were made by studying the DNA record of evolution. Very little of what is in the book has been shared with the reading public, and most of it is not in textbooks either, but will be." The author went on to note in the same interview: "Changes in species traits occur through changes in DNA, but until recently, we had very few examples that pinpointed those changes responsible for adaptations. Now we have many examples."
Among the examples presented in The Making of the Fittest are genetic changes that enabled fish to live in below-freezing water and others that have produced birds that can use ultraviolet colors to communicate. In the case of Antarctic icefish, the author points out, as noted by Josie Glausiusz in her review of the book on the Discover Web site, that "unused DNA code is eroded by constant mutation." Because the Antarctic waters are rich in oxygen, the icefish do not need the red hemoglobin that helps other fish process oxygen to survive. Thus, the icefish have lost the power to make red hemoglobin. As noted by Glausiusz, "the two genes that code for hemoglobin have also gone extinct." The reviewer added that the icefish still has one of these genes in its DNA, however, "as a non-coding ‘molecular fossil,’ a useless remnant that hints at past use."
In his book, the author presents numerous other examples of DNA-related natural selection leading to favorable adaptations that can still be seen in various animals' genetic "records." He goes on to explain how new discoveries in genetics are proving once and for all that arguments against biological evolution have no basis in science. A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that "Carroll offers some provocative and convincing evidence." Victoria Shelton, writing in the Library Journal, commented that the book provides "insight into the evolutionary process and … how the ‘fittest’ species were made."
Carroll is also coauthor, with Jennifer K. Grenier and Scott D. Weatherbee, of From DNA to Diversity: Molecular Genetics and the Evolution of Animal Design, which was published in 2001 with a second edition published in 2005. The book was called "an outstanding primer on the evolution of developmental gene networks" by Science contributor Gregory A. Wray.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Scientist, January 1, 2007, Douglas H. Erwin, "Natural Selection for Everyone," review of The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution, p. 76.
BioScience, December, 2006, John J. Wiens, "Molecular Evolution for the Masses," review of The Making of the Fittest, p. 1014.
Booklist, October 1, 2006, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Making of the Fittest, p. 11.
Capital Times (Madison, WI), April 21, 2005, P.J. Slinger, "UW Prof Tells How Genes Work."
Cell, November 2, 2001, Nipam H. Patel, review of From DNA to Diversity: Molecular Genetics and the Evolution of Animal Design, p. 277.
Choice, May, 2002, S.K. Sommers Smith, review of From DNA to Diversity, p. 1611; March, 2007, F.W. Yow, review of The Making of the Fittest, p. 1192.
Internet Bookwatch, April, 2007, review of The Making of the Fittest.
Journal of Clinical Investigation, July, 2007, David McKinnon, review of The Making of the Fittest, p. 1737.
Journal of Heredity, November-December, 2005, W. McGinnis, review of From DNA to Diversity, p. 725.
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2005, review of Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom, p. 159.
Library Journal, March 1, 2005, Walter L. Cressler, review of Endless Forms Most Beautiful, p. 105, and Andrew Albanese, "Q&A: Sean B. Carroll," p. 107; October 1, 2006, Victoria Shelton, review of The Making of the Fittest, p. 102.
Nature, October 4, 2001, Axel Meyer, review of From DNA to Diversity, p. 455; October 26, 2006, Brian Charlesworth, "Evidence for Evolution," review of The Making of the Fittest, p. 910.
Perspectives on Biology and Medicine, winter, 2003, Manfred D. Laubichler, review of From DNA to Diversity, p. 148.
Publishers Weekly, February 28, 2005, review of Endless Forms Most Beautiful, p. 55; August 7, 2006, review of The Making of the Fittest, p. 45.
Quarterly Review of Biology, September, 2007, Elof Axel Carlson, review of The Making of the Fittest, p. 271.
Science, June 22, 2001, Gregory A. Wray, review of From DNA to Diversity, p. 2256.
Science Books & Films, May-June, 2007, review of The Making of the Fittest, p. 122.
Science News, July 9, 2005, review of Endless Forms Most Beautiful, p. 31; October 28, 2006, review of The Making of the Fittest, p. 287.
SciTech Book News, March, 2005, review of From DNA to Diversity, p. 53; March, 2007, review of The Making of the Fittest.
Discover,http://discovermagazine.com/ (September 9, 2006), Josie Glausiusz, "The Making of the Making of the Fittest," interview with author; (October 10, 2006), Josie Glausiusz, "Book; A Trail of Ancient Genes" review of The Making of the Fittest.
Sean B. Carroll Home Page,http://seanbcarroll.com (January 23, 2008).
University of Wisconsin—Madison, Department of Genetics Web site,http://www.genetics.wisc.edu/ (September 12, 2005), profile of Sean B. Carroll.