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Date & Time

Tuesday, December 5, 2017
6:00 PM


Seminary Co-op Bookstore


Free and open to the public


Seminary Co-op Bookstore
(773) 752-4381


“This is a wonderfully serious book with a lighthearted voice. Is evolution predictable or contingent? Big question. Why do adaptations converge? Big question. Why is the platypus unique? Smaller question, but fun! Read, enjoy, think." — David Quammen, author of "The Song of the Dodo" and "Spillover"

Jonathan B. Losos discusses "Improbable Destinies: Fate, Chance, and the Future of Evolution".

At the Co-op

About the book: Earth's natural history is full of fascinating instances of both random and predictable evolution. Evolutionary convergence, phenomena like eyes and wings and tree-climbing lizards that have evolved independently in multiple species, multiple times, suggests a predictability in the way animals evolve and adapt. But evolutionary biologists also study examples of evolutionary contingency: cases where the tiniest change – a random mutation or an ancient butterfly sneeze – caused evolution to take a completely different course. In "Improbable Destinies", Losos takes readers across the globe to study the history, context, and evidence for both sides of this debate, raising fascinating questions about what role each force really plays in the constantly changing natural world. Are the plants and animals that exist today, and we humans ourselves, predictable inevitabilities or slapdash evolutionary freaks? And what could these debates suggest about life on other planets?

Through an exploration of incredible feats of experimental design alongside his own pioneering work with lizards on Caribbean islands, Losos rewinds the tape of life to reveal just how rapid and predictable evolution can be. Losos’ insights into natural selection and evolutionary change have far-reaching applications for protecting ecosystems, securing our food supply, and fighting off harmful viruses and bacteria, and offer a new way of understanding ourselves and our role in the natural world on earth and within the cosmos.

About the author: Jonathan B. Losos is a biology professor and director of the Losos Laboratory at Harvard University and curator of herpetology at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology. His research regularly appears in top scientific journals, such as Nature and Science, and he has written a popular series about his work for The New York Times. Losos is the editor in chief of "The Princeton Guide to Evolution" and a member of the National Geographic Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration. He is the author of "Lizards in an Evolutionary Tree: Ecology and Adaptive Radiation of Anoles".

About the interlocutor: Neil H. Shubin has conducted landmark research on the evolutionary origin of anatomical features of animals. He has conducted fieldwork in much of North America, including Greenland, as well as China, Africa and Antarctica. One of his most significant discoveries, a 375-million-year-old fossil called Tiktaalik roseae, is an important transitional form between fish and land animals.