Evolutionary novelties

Curr Biol. 2010 Jan 26;20(2):R48-52. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2009.11.010.


How novel traits arise in organisms has long been a major problem in biology. Indeed, the sharpest critiques of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection often centered on explaining how novel body parts arose. In his response to The Origin of Species, St. George J. Mivart challenged Darwin to explain the origin of evolutionary novelties such as the mammary gland, asking if it was "conceivable that the young of any animal was ever saved from destruction by accidentally sucking a drop of scarcely nutritious fluid from an accidentally hypertrophied cutaneous gland of its mother?" It is only now that modern molecular and genomic tools are being brought to bear on this question that we are finally in a position to answer Mivart's challenge and explain one of the most fundamental questions of biology: how does novelty arise in evolution?

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*