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Evolving AnimalsWallace Arthur

Cambridge University Press, £19.99

In the 1980s Wallace Arthur was one of the instigators of the evo-devo approach to evolutionary stories. His later book, Biased Embryos and Evolution, gave many embryologists like me authority to engage with evolution in new ways, but Evolving Animals is a different kind of book.

In a way it's like an old-fashioned zoology tome, but beautifully updated by DNA sequence data so that we have Ecdysozoa and Lophotrochozoa instead of annelids next to arthropods and nematodes sitting out on their own.

As an old-fashioned zoologist/embryologist, I enjoyed reading it, and undergraduate biologists will gain a breadth of understanding of animals unattainable from any other book I know.

As usual from Arthur, there are nice insights: 'genotype' as a term is fine, as it remains throughout life, but 'phenotype' is misleading – it's not developmental enough, it changes totally during life.

I have a few minor criticisms: "...bacteria and other unicellular forms..." is naughty; attempting to "define" life, or consciousness, when they manifestly exist out in the world to be 'described', is philosophically awkward. But his Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace quotes, and handling of biologist Willi Hennig, are very neat indeed. This is a good little book, bringing zoology back into the academic gamut.

Professor Jack Cohen FSB

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