Two Books on the Evolution of Genomes

Oxford University Press will be releasing a new book in June entitled Darwinian Detectives: Revealing the Natural History of Genes and Genomes. From the OUP description of the book:

Molecular scientists exploring newly sequenced genomes have stumbled upon quite a few surprises, including that only one to ten percent of the genetic material of animals actually codes for genes. What does the remaining 90-99% of the genome do? Why do some organisms have a much lower genome size than their close relatives? What were the genetic changes that were associated with us becoming human?

Ignoring the fact that “molecular scientists” are too damn small to perform decent lab work or operate a computer (ZING!), this book looks pretty cool. The author, Norman Johnson, has written a book about genome evolution for the general public. It includes a treatment of how we can use DNA sequences to detect natural selection, a discussion of human-chimpanzee genome comparisons, and a chapter on genome size. The book also touches on current topics such as avian flu, Homo floresiensis, Neanderthals, and Kitzmiller v. Dover (the last of which I don’t think belongs in a book about science).

From the advertisement, Darwinian Detectives seems to focus heavily on the evolution of genome size and content. Mike Lynch is a leader in this field, so it’s no wonder that he’s written a book about genome evolution (via John Logsdon). From the description, it appears that Lynch’s book an extension of this paper, in which Lynch argued that eukaryotic gene structure (introns, regulatory regions, etc) is a product of relaxed selective constraint in small populations (ie, nothing in evolution makes sense except in the light of population genetics). Lynch’s book, The Origins of Genome Architecture, is probably geared toward a more advanced audience than Darwinian Detectives.

Note: I have read neither of these books, but I’d be glad to write a review if a publisher sends me a copy.


  1. #1 Chris Harrison
    April 19, 2007

    I’ve not read it, but there’s also T. Ryan Gregory’s “The Evolution of the Genome”, which you might be interested in.

  2. #2 John Logsdon
    April 19, 2007

    I didn’t know that Norman Johnson’s book (Darwinian Detectives) is about to be published, so thanks for the heads-up. I had heard that it was to be a “popular” treatment of modern molecular evolutionary genetics, so I look forward to it and hope that he hits the mark. I also have not looked at Gregory’s book yet.

New comments have been disabled.