Endless Forms Most Beautiful

The basic genetic software that drives the development of organisms is very old, and is shared in common across the animal kingdom. The software is modular, with components that govern the development of eyes, limbs, and hearts. The genetic program that builds a multi-faceted fly eye is mostly the same as the program that builds a human eye.
Components are re-used to build different body parts — the module that makes fingers and toes is re-used to make the spots on a butterfly. The genes are the same; the component architecture is the same, and the detail of the program itself is different.
This is beautiful science — general laws holding together a vast number of seemingly unrelated facts. And it’s new science. Until recently biologists theorized that eyes and limbs had developed independently in different families of organisms. The basic discoveries were made about 20 years ago, and much of the detail has been added in the last decade.

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