From Butterflies to Humans
The story of animal evolution is marked by key innovations such as limbs for walking on land, wings for flight, and color patterns for advertising or concealment. How do new traits arise? How has the great diversity of butterflies, fish, mammals, and other animals evolved?
The invention of insect wings and the evolution of their color patterns are beautiful models of the origin of novelty and the evolution of diversity. This lecture explores how new patterns evolve when “old” genes learn new tricks.
Old genes learning new tricks also applies to our own species and the evolution of traits that distinguish us from earlier hominids and other apes: our big brains, bipedal locomotion, and speech and language. The complete picture of human evolution involves new information emerging from the fossil record, genetics, comparative physiology, and development. Despite immense advances in evidence and understanding, there remains a societal struggle with the acceptance of our biological history and the evolutionary process, the roots of which are discussed in this lecture.