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What Darwin Never KnewPBS Air Date: December 29, 2009NARRATOR:One question: "Why is there such a stunning diversity of life?"One answer: "Evolution: Charles Darwin's brilliant theory that explains how species adapt and change." It's been called the best idea anyone ever had. But there's one big problem: How does it actually work?Now, extraordinary science is answering that question. It is uncovering the hidden mechanisms inside creatures' bodies that can explain astonishing transformations like how birds can evolve from dinosaurs; why a fish was once your ancestor; and above all, what makes us human.Right now on NOVA, you'll find out, What Darwin Never Knew.The tree of life on Earth, is one of stunning diversity: 9,000 species of birds, 350,000 kinds of beetles, 28,000 types of fish; 2,000,000 living species and counting. And we are just one of them.But why is there such an amazing variety of animals? Why are there so many types of fish, so many different species of beetle? How did this extraordinary profusion of life on Earth come about?Today we celebrate the man who would ultimately answer that question: Charles Darwin.He was born 200 years ago, and it is 150 years since he published the work that has become the bedrock of our understanding of life on Earth.CLIFF TABIN(Harvard Medical School): What Darwin wanted to understand was how you get this extraordinary diversity of life on Earth. He was spot on. He really nailed it.NARRATOR:Darwin's theory of evolution, his account of why species adapt and change, has been called the best idea anyone ever had.But even Darwin admitted that his work was incomplete. Vast questions were still unanswered. And the biggest question was, "How?" How did evolution take place?SEAN B. CARROLL(University of Wisconsin–Madison/Howard Hughes Medical Institute): He didn't know any of the mechanics of that process. He didn't understand the physical forces that would actually change the way species appeared.NARRATOR:But today we can answer the questions that Darwin could not. We can look under the hood of evolution, and see exactly how this mysterious process gives rise to such astounding diversity.CLIFF TABIN:What's incredible about this timing, from a scientific perspective, is we're going to be able to understand that diversity. And that just adds to the excitement. It doesn't demystify it, it makes it all the more magical.NARRATOR:And this is the magic and mystery of evolution: over eons of time a single species gives rise to many. An ancient fish evolves to become the ancestor of all four-limbed animals, even us. And one species, our own, develops a large and uniquely complex brain, enabling us to dominate the planet.This is the search for the answers to what Darwin never knew.Darwin began his love affair with nature when he was a child, just like many of his modern followers, including evolutionary biologist Sean Carroll.