Shapes of Time : The Evolution of Growth and Development

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Have you ever wondered how evolution produced the wing of a bat, the foot of the first amphibian, the tiny arms of the Tyrannosaurus, or the eye and brain that allow you to read these words? Conventional wisdom would say natural selection. But can this alone explain the subtle nuances and wonders of evolution?

Shapes of Time explores evolution down another, much neglected avenue that links natural selection and genetics -- the effect of changes to the rates and timing of growth ...

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Overview

Have you ever wondered how evolution produced the wing of a bat, the foot of the first amphibian, the tiny arms of the Tyrannosaurus, or the eye and brain that allow you to read these words? Conventional wisdom would say natural selection. But can this alone explain the subtle nuances and wonders of evolution?

Shapes of Time explores evolution down another, much neglected avenue that links natural selection and genetics -- the effect of changes to the rates and timing of growth and development. Kenneth J. McNamara delves into the living and fossil worlds to show how animals and plants have evolved when the carefully orchestrated pattern of embryological development is gently nudged off-course -- producing species that may have developed "beyond" their ancestors, or others that have developed less, looking more like overgrown juveniles.

McNamara shows how this phenomenon -- known as heterochrony -- has affected many aspects of evolution, including the mechanism behind the selection of different breeds of animals, differences between sexes, and animal behavior. Heterochrony accounts for the "Peter Pan syndrome," in which some species look like their ancestors' children. It explains what was really behind the evolution of flightless birds, how the dinosaurs got so big, how pterosaurs managed to produce a wing supported only by their fourth fingers, and what has driven the evolution of the animal closest to our hearts -- the largest primate species with the biggest brain and longest childhood -- Homo sapiens.

Explores evolution from a perspective that links natural selection & genetics, explores phenomenon of heterochrony.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Heterochrony refers to changes in the rate and timing of growth and development events or patterns. Besides genetic variation and natural selection, paleontologist McNamara (Evolutionary Change and Heterochrony, Wiley, 1996) argues that heterochrony plays a key role in the evolution, complexity, and diversity of the biosphere throughout Earth's history. He shows how changes in size, shape, and behavior during animal ontogeny have resulted in the speciation of, and general trends in, life forms from fossil trilobites to living dogs and sea urchins. Special attention is given to predation pressure on an organism throughout its life history. Of particular interest is an examination of speciation among the Galapagos birds and a discussion of the evolution of our human species as the "super ape." Clearly written, well illustrated, and with numerous supporting examples, this important contribution to understanding a major mechanism of organic evolution is recommended for all large science collections.H. James Birx, Canisius Coll., Buffalo, N.Y.
Booknews
A senior curator of invertebrate paleontology at the Western Australian Museum in Perth offers a new perspective on evolution by looking at how changes in the size and shape of animals and plants occur, what factors other than genetic mutation and natural selection operate, and what factors influence the changes. Central to his inquiry is the phenomenon known as heterochrony, changes in the rate and timing of the growth and development of individuals. Accessible to general readers. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801855719
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 9/23/1997
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 342
  • Product dimensions: 6.21 (w) x 9.24 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Kenneth J. McNamara is senior curator of invertebrate paleontology at the Western Australian Museum in Perth. He has investigated the role of heterochrony in evolution in a wide range of living and fossil animals in Europe, Australia, China, and Africa. He is co-author of Heterochrony: The Evolution of Ontogeny.

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