While Darwin’s theories of evolution explained a lot about the origin of species, they did not fully explain the origin of new body parts over time. One of Darwin’s critics, St. George Mivart, famously proposed that if the theory could not come up with steps leading to the origin of lactation, it was a failure. By integrating findings from embryology, paleontology, and biochemistry, we only now are beginning to see the stepwise picture of how mammalian lactation evolved, through a process of recombination of old adaptations, ultimately from unlikely sources – hair, sweat, and pimples. From this detailed example, we’ll reflect on what this reveals about the history of life in general.
Daniel Stadtmauer completed his undergraduate studies at Yale College and is continuing his graduate studies at the University.His current research concerns the evolution of pregnancy in mammals and the topic of
“novelty” in evolution. His academic interests include the relationship between science and society. He is also interested in the potential for archives such as libraries and museums to benefit society.
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