Evolutionary eye

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  • TOWARD A GREATER AWARENESS OF THE PRIVILEGE OF WHAT IT MEANS TO be the human animal is what this book is about. To me, it is a wild and ethical imperative—an urgent reminder that we are inextricably linked to the land; that the history of every living creature is within us; that we are above all a mindful, poetic species and that we are the “keepers of our zoo.” If we cannot accept this then we will continue to be the creatures of our own undoing.

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  • This chapter focuses on several organs that collectively provide the individual with their insight into the outside world. The ability to ‘sense’ is a primitive function developed through thousands of years of evolutionary change. The senses are taken for granted by those with a fully functioning ability, but for many a combination of congenital, degenerative and acute pathologies results in a decreased ability in one or more of these functions.

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  • Yes, but the eye of the beholder is notoriously subjective, hopelessly narrow in its capacities for vision. One has only to consult smell or taste, for example, to realize that much more is going on than the eye can see. Science, by extending so greatly human capacities for perception, and by integrating these into theory, teaches us what is objectively there. We realize what is going on in the dark, underground, or over time. Without science, there is no sense of deep time, nor of geological or evolutionary history, and little appreciation of ecology.

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  • One of the most influential studies of the pace of evolutionary change was pub- lished in 1971 by two young paleontologists at the American Museum of Natural History named Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould. They pointed out that the fossils of a typical species showed few signs of change during its lifetime. New species branching off from old ones had small but distinctive differences. Eldredge carefully documented this stasis in trilobites, an extinct lineage of armored arthropods. He counted the rows of columns in the eyes of each sub- species.

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  • Thebandccrystallins are evolutionarily related families of proteins that make up a large part of the refractive structure of the vertebrate eye lens. Each family has a distinctive gene structure that reflects a history of succes-sive gene duplications. A survey ofc-crystallins expressed in mammal, rep-tile, bird and fish species (particularly in the zebrafish, Danio rerio) has led to the discovery of cN-crystallin, an evolutionary bridge between theband cfamilies.

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