Recently I read Arrival of the Fittest: How Nature Innovates by Andreas Wagner, those of you familiar with this regular section on my blog will know that I enjoyed it very much. Most biologists are familiar with Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, an idea that transformed our understanding life on Earth forever. If you’re not familiar with Darwin’s theory then please do read a copy of On the Origin of Species, although it is quite a tedious text so I’m sure there are videos or blogs you can read to break down the main points.
As Wagner is an evolutionary biologist and puts a different spin on things, we know how natural selection works but understanding how it innovates is a different ball game. As is a recurring theme throughout the book, natural selection doesn’t create new features out of the blue but repurposes what is already available to create the new. The latest evolutionary science is beginning to unravel how all of this happens, some exampled are explained in detail highlighting how random mutations can create additive effects that lead to the expression of new phenotypes.
Just as a side note, I’d recommend reading Addy Pross’ What is Life? before reading Arrival of the Fittest as I feel they both go hand in hand.