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Why are there no Unicorns?

May 29, 2007
clipped from physorg.com

Why are there no Unicorns? Perhaps horses develop in a way that cannot be easily modified to produce a Unicorn, so such creatures have never arisen. Or maybe Unicorn-like animals have been born in the past but because there is no advantage for a horse to have a horn, such creatures did not thrive and were weeded out by natural selection.

The problem highlights a general issue in evolutionary biology of what determines the range of plants and animals we see compared to those that might have evolved theoretically. To what extent does observed biodiversity reflect the rules of development or the action of Darwinian selection?

So it looks like the way genes control development plays an important role in determining what sorts of structure evolve. But the researchers also showed that selection plays a key part in setting the routes that evolution may take within the space of possibilities
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