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Genome Biol Evol. 2011;3:1053-66. doi: 10.1093/gbe/evr061.

Chance and necessity in eye evolution.

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  • 1Department of Growth and Development, Biozentrum University of Basel, Switzerland. walter.gehring@unibas.ch

Abstract

Charles Darwin has proposed the theory that evolution of live organisms is based on random variation and natural selection. Jacques Monod in his classic book Chance and Necessity, published 40 years ago, presented his thesis "that the biosphere does not contain a predictable class of objects or events, but constitutes a particular occurrence, compatible indeed with the first principles, but not deducible from those principals and therefore, essentially unpredictable." Recent discoveries in eye evolution are in agreement with both of these theses. They confirm Darwin's assumption of a simple eye prototype and lend strong support for the notion of a monophyletic origin of the various eye types. Considering the complexity of the underlying gene regulatory networks the unpredictability is obvious. The evolution of the Hox gene cluster and the specification of the body plan starting from an evolutionary prototype segment is discussed. In the course of evolution, a series of similar prototypic segments gradually undergoes cephalization anteriorly and caudalization posteriorly through diversification of the Hox genes.

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