Sean B. Carroll

Professor of Molecular Biology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, WI and Vice President for Science Education at Howard Hughes Medical Institutes

Presentation Title: How Bugs Get Their Spots: Genetic switches and the evolution of form

Understanding the genetic mechanisms underlying the evolution of animal form has long been a quest of evolutionary biology. A large body of comparative and experimental data has pointed to the central importance of non-coding regulatory DNA sequences ("genetic switches") in the evolution of development and form. I will discuss a few case studies of insect color patterns that illuminate the general role of genetic switches in the evolution of form.

Lab Website:
Personal website:

Recent Publications

Dr. Carroll contributes the "Remarkable Creatures" column in the New York Times. This column highlights interesting evolutionary stories on various topics.

Dr. Carroll has written a number of popular science books about evolutionary developmental biology or “evo devo.” More information is available on his personal and lab websites. The titles are listed here:

Resources for Teaching

Genetics and the Evolution of Animal Design

From the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI)
A description of Sean Carroll’s work.

Preexisting Patterns Guide Evolution’s Paintbrush

An overview of Dr. Carroll’s work on wing pigmentation patterns in Drosophila.

Researchers Trace the Evolutionary Path to a Color Shift in African Fruit Flies

Report on how enhancers are responsible for coloration of fruit fly populations.

Fruit fly Study Shows How Evolution Wings It

Discusses evolution of wing patterns in Drosophila, and includes a video of a male courting a female by flashing his wing spots.

Evolution: Constant change and common threads

Sean Carroll and David Kingsley discuss their work in evolutionary biology. Hopi Hoekstra’s work on coat coloration is one of the topics. This collection of lectures and educational resources is available on the HHMI BioInteractive website or on DVD.

Paintbrush Gene

This 49-second video explains how gene regulation influences color patterns in Drosophila.

Interview with Sean Carroll

From 60 Minutes
A short introduction to Evo Devo.