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Event Detail (Archived)

Butterfly Spots and Rattlesnake Tales: The Evolution of Novelty

The Fairfield Osborn Memorial Lecture

  • This event already took place in October 2019
  • Caspary Auditorium

Event Details

Friday Lecture Series
Sean Carroll, Ph.D., professor emeritus of molecular biology and genetics, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Andrew and Mary Balo and Nicholas and Susan Simon Endowed Chair of Biology, University of Maryland; vice president for science education, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

The origin of novelty is one of the central questions of evolution. One of the key issues concerning the genetic basis of novelty is the extent to which novelty requires the evolution of new genes. Dr. Carroll’s laboratory has been focused on the genetic mechanisms underlying the evolution of animal form, and more recently, on biochemical novelties such as the evolution of snake venom. They have found that the evolution of gene regulatory sequences is the predominant mechanism underlying the evolution of morphological traits, while the evolution of protein activity involves a variety of genetic mechanisms depending upon whether evolutionary change involves the amount or specificity of proteins. The increasing empirical understanding of how different kinds of traits arise is driving a major rethinking of the role of gene duplication in evolution.

Dr. Carroll has received the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Life Sciences, been elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the European Molecular Biology Organization, as well as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Dr. Carroll is the author of five books for general audiences including The Serengeti Rules, Brave Genius, The Making of the Fittest, Endless Forms Most Beautiful and Remarkable Creatures which was a finalist for the National Book Award for non-fiction. In 2016, Dr. Carroll received the Rockefeller University Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science.

Dr. Carroll has served as executive producer and/or on-screen presenter of more than a dozen films, including Mass Extinction, Amazon Adventure, and The Farthest, and earned one Emmy and two Emmy nominations. His latest book, The Serengeti Rules, is the basis for a new theatrical film being released in 2019.


Justin Sloboda
(212) 327-7785
Open to
Daniel Kronauer
Refreshments, 3:15 p.m. - 3:45 p.m., Abby Lounge
Justin Sloboda
(212) 327-7785

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