Looking for Books: Evo Devo (for dummies)

Reinspired by the genius video Mark posted over in Humor in Science and Theology, I’ve decided to have a crack at trying to understand the fascination subject of Evo Devo.

It sounds so interesting and I feel like a grasp of even the basics would complement my theological knowledge of origins immensely… and further increase my appreciation for general God’s awesomeness.

Can anyone recommend a good work down the key ideas? I’m happy to wrestle with big words and technical language and books outside the ‘popular’ level if it is worth the effort. So in that sense, it doesn’t need to be ‘popular level’.

Thanks all.


I was actually thinking that something along the 5th grade (11 to 12 year old) level could be helpful to me.

Preferably with amazing harmonies a la the video referenced in the OP.


It was a reach for me but I nibbled away at this
one for quite a while.

If anyone points you to a more layman leveled book I’d like to read it too.


Here’s a free 85-pg book from the Templeton Foundation.


I haven’t read it all yet, but Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo
seems to be a good book on the subject.


Thanks! That was a good introduction that required some review, but wasn’t out of reach.


Quite a few reviewers said that Endless Forms… was a bit dry, so went with Understanding Evo-Devo by Arthur, Wallace. Which also has the benefit of being much more recent (2021).

Learning about homeoboxes is blowing my mind! :exploding_head:

Thanks, everyone.


I’m glad you mentioned evo-devo, because it reminded me that I never even finished “Endless Forms Most Beautiful.” So I’m checking it out of the library again.

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Thanks for the recommendation, Liam!
I just looked at the Amazon record. Actually, the entire “Understanding Life” series that it comes from looks good. Cambridge U. P. has a bit of clout. And the intro to

describes it as assuming only a high-school-level background in biology.

So, for the Gruftis like me, who have been doing everything but biology or the last 40+ years, there might be some looking stuff up, but not an entire semester or 5 of work before one could approach the book at all.

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May I present:


Nice recommendation. It spurred me to look up the book, which then peaked my interest in the subject. Hoopla and scribd don’t have it available yet, but Sean Carroll has an audiobook which I started listening to.

So far it seems to be written at a level I can understand and it’s well read by the narrator.

Found this quote at the beginning of the book, Endless Forms Most Beautiful, to be richly satisfying:

“The key to any scientific advance is to be able to explain the complex visible by some simple invisible.”

Jean Baptiste Perrin

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I can’t overstate how brilliant and clever this video is! :star_struck:


Craziness! Always completely amazed at the creativity of people :exploding_head:

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Has anyone watched this video of the its creator talking about putting it together and how he got interested?

Oh and here are all the lyrics in the original video for those of us @Kendel who have a hard time clearly hearing lyrics.

B. Mac.
Oh Carroll, Carroll
Gould, Stephen Jay yeah
D-D-D-D-Davidson and Peter

One cell divide and decide on a thousand fates
Did you ever figure how they know?
B. Mac.
Are built of modules combined in a planned out way
Each new piece must be told where to go

Now there’s a science helping us to understand
How our cells encode this architectural plan
Signalling each other with genetic tools oh
Oh yeah

Phenotype the interface for mouse and man
Genotype the files and the subprograms
What then are the switches, circuit boards and boot code?

Looking at the logic in the ways that we grow
Every gene directed by a signal key code
Proteins that can activate, enhance or veto
Signals are controlled by other genes that signal
Calculating in a network labyrinthal
Where the heart and liver and the hands and feet go

Signal mapping tells each region what it ought to be yo
With circuits so deeply built upon
They’re older than the Paleo
The Paleozoic Era baby
In a crucial pathway changes tend to get torpedoed
Where they go calamity goes
As this cyclopic sheep knows…

See down they cascade like a domino
Like you and I drosophila
The path that makes us optical
Was laid a long long time ago
Back before we blew up the cambrian like a bomb bomb
Now my eye protein can make you see out of your bom bom
And Hedgehog and its relatives like Indian and Sonic
Set up set up in a gradient on segments embryonic
Split forebrains and asymmetric parts depend upon it
Flipping on genetic switches and logic
From devo to evo
Adult and embryo
Mostly don’t evolve in the genes of the genome
Safer the mutation aimed at regulation
Keep the building blocks and swap their activation
From devo to evo
Parts have alter egos
Homologs evolved from repeats in the schema
Switch a couple bases in the proper places
You’ll be watching flies grow legs out of their faces oh yeah

Stick around for Modern Synthesis the sequel
Only by combining can a new theory grow
Evolution and development amigos
Signals trigger patterns of complexity so
Switching up the switches of a signalling node
Gives a modular and simple way to evolve

Look at how our spinal segments generate a neat row
Built on a molecular clock
One cycle, one vertebra
One vertebra one vertebra baby
Speeding up its rate is snakes’ developmental cheat code
That and where a lizard’s feet grow
They turn off distal aminos

This is how we go from single cells to people
Every generation and in life primeval
Life in variations endless and beautiful


From devo to evo
Larva to mosquito
Patterns are resolved as the signals proceed yo
Map out a gene with a glow tag
Kill it with a morpholino
Short oligo morpholino baby

From devo to evo
Voyage of the Beagle
Body plans evolve when proteins steer the genome
In this manner life’s beauty grows
Aesthetica in vivo



Ooooh! It’s in Bookshare!!! I can listen to it then! And then supplement with eye-straining visual reading. Wahoo!


Thanks, Mark! I’ll need to watch “the how I made it one” and DEFINATELY READ . THE . LYRICS!

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