ivart was one of the first scientists to call attention to the observation that major transitions in evolution do not involve a single organ changing; rather, whole suites of features across the body have to change in concert.
Some Assembly Required Decoding Four Billion Years of Life, from Ancient Fossils to DNA--Neil Shubin
If you aren’t familiar with St George Jackson Mivart, today is your lucky day. In a nutshell, Mivart was trolling Darwin’s findings in his seminal work, "On the Origin of Species".
But his question was important:
If entire bodies have to change for any great transformation, and many features need to change simultaneously, then how could major transitions happen gradually?--Some Assembly Required Decoding Four Billion Years of Life, from Ancient Fossils to DNA--Neil Shubin
Charles Darwin responded thoughtfully and respectfully...
All of Mr Mivart’s objections will be, or have been, considered in the present volume. The one new point which appears to have struck many readers is, ‘That natural selection is incompetent to account for the incipient stages of useful structures.’ This subject is intimately connected with that of the gradation of the characters, often accompanied by a change of function.”--Neil Shubin
Lungs aren’t some invention that abruptly came about as creatures evolved to walk. Fish were breathing air with lungs well before animals ever stepped onto terra firma. The invasion of land by descendants of fish did not originate a new organ--it changed the function of an organ that already existed...the change did not involve the origin of a new organ; instead the transformation was, as Darwin said more generally, “accompanied by a change of function.”--Neil Shubin
My thesis was in population genetics so this book is a win for me but it also reminded me of data. We take a class and are often surprised when the skills or tools are not easily assimilated into a work flow. It reminds me of the fish with the genetic equivalent of a lung.
He doesn’t effortlessly stroll onto the beach and become a land dweller. There are gradients of success. There needs to be changes in a whole host of functions. Suddenly his watery environment has a drop in dissolved oxygen--mysteriously he relies on his lungs to weather the storm.
Perhaps our data skills are like air sacs. They exist--we simply need to challenge them to innovate and evolve along with us.