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How does a caterpillar transform into a butterfly? That question, which sums up the wonder and mystery of insect metamorphosis, has built a timeless enigma, which has fascinated humankind since the earliest times. In insects, metamorphosis has been an extraordinarily successful evolutionary innovation. In fact, more than half of the species we have on Earth today are metamorphosing insects.
Now newly published "Insect Metamorphosis: From Natural History to Regulation of Development and Evolution" (Xavier Bellés, Academic Press, 2020) explores the origin of insect metamorphosis, how the different types of metamorphoses evolved, and how they are regulated, delving into misconceptions and past treatments. With most of the present biodiversity on Earth composed of metamorphosing insects — approximately 1 million species currently described, with another 10-30 million still waiting to be discovered —, metamorphosis is presented as a one of the most successful innovations in insect evolution. As discussed in the book, this success has been largely due to the exquisitely precise mechanisms that regulate metamorphosis. Among them, those recently unravelled, which relate to the juvenile hormone, are shown to be of paramount importance. The evolution of these mechanisms naturally integrates into the theory of evolution by natural selection, an aspect that intrigued Darwin in his “On the Origin of Species”.
You can read an interview to Xavier Bellés about this book in the El·lipse website.