It is in only the last 40 or so years that we have begun to understand how important a role the integument plays in the locomotion of many marine vertebrates. This involves the crossed-fiber architecture, which was first discovered in a classic study on nemertean worms. As a design principle we see that the crossed-fiber architecture is ubiquitous in nature. Research on some of the most dynamic marine vertebrates of the oceans – tuna, dolphins and sharks, and the extinct Jurassic ichthyosaurs – shows precisely how the crossed-fiber architecture contributes to high-speed swimming and (in lamnid sharks) may even aid in energy conservation.
However, this design principle is not restricted to animals in the marine biota but is also found as far afield as the dinosaurs and, most recently, has been revealed as a major part of the microstructure of the most complex derivative of the integument, the feather. We see that a variety of phylogenetically diverse vertebrates take to the air by using skin flaps to glide from tree to tree or to the ground, and present detailed descriptions of innovations developed in pursuit of improved gliding capabilities in both extinct and modern day gliders.
But the vertebrate integument had even greater things in store, namely true or flapping flight. Pterosaurs were the first vertebrates to use the integument as a membrane in true flapping flight and these interesting extinct animals are discussed on the basis of past and cutting-edge research , most intriguingly with respect to the structure of the flight membrane.
Bats, the only mammals that fly, also employ integumental flight membranes. Classic research on bat flight is reviewed and supplemented with the latest research, which shows the complexities of the wing beat cycle to be significantly different from that of birds, as revealed by particle image velocimetry.
The book’s largest chapter is devoted to birds, given that they make up nearly half of the over 22,000 species of tetrapods. The flight apparatus of birds is unique in nature and is described in great detail, with innovative research highlighting the complexity of the flight structures, bird flight patterns, and behavior in a variety of species. This is complimented by new research on the brains of birds, which shows that they are more complex than previously thought. The feather made bird flight possible, and was itself made possible by β-keratin, contributing to what may be a unique biomechanical microstructure in nature, a topic discussed in some depth. A highly polarized subject concerns the origin of birds and of the feather. Alleged fossilized protofeathers (primal simple feathers) are considered on the basis of histological and taphonomic investigative studies in Chapter 6. Finally, in Chapter 7 we discuss the controversies associated with this field of research.
Professor Theagarten Lingham-Soliar works at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth and is an Honorary Professor of Life Sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
A Summer Reading Pick for President Barack Obama, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg
From a renowned historian comes a groundbreaking narrative of humanity’s creation and evolution—a #1 international bestseller—that explores the ways in which biology and history have defined us and enhanced our understanding of what it means to be “human.”
One hundred thousand years ago, at least six different species of humans inhabited Earth. Yet today there is only one—homo sapiens. What happened to the others? And what may happen to us?
Most books about the history of humanity pursue either a historical or a biological approach, but Dr. Yuval Noah Harari breaks the mold with this highly original book that begins about 70,000 years ago with the appearance of modern cognition. From examining the role evolving humans have played in the global ecosystem to charting the rise of empires, Sapiens integrates history and science to reconsider accepted narratives, connect past developments with contemporary concerns, and examine specific events within the context of larger ideas.
Dr. Harari also compels us to look ahead, because over the last few decades humans have begun to bend laws of natural selection that have governed life for the past four billion years. We are acquiring the ability to design not only the world around us, but also ourselves. Where is this leading us, and what do we want to become?
Featuring 27 photographs, 6 maps, and 25 illustrations/diagrams, this provocative and insightful work is sure to spark debate and is essential reading for aficionados of Jared Diamond, James Gleick, Matt Ridley, Robert Wright, and Sharon Moalem.
A major book about the future of the world, blending intellectual and natural history and field reporting into a powerful account of the mass extinction unfolding before our eyes
Over the last half a billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us. In The Sixth Extinction, two-time winner of the National Magazine Award and New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert draws on the work of scores of researchers in half a dozen disciplines, accompanying many of them into the field: geologists who study deep ocean cores, botanists who follow the tree line as it climbs up the Andes, marine biologists who dive off the Great Barrier Reef. She introduces us to a dozen species, some already gone, others facing extinction, including the Panamian golden frog, staghorn coral, the great auk, and the Sumatran rhino. Through these stories, Kolbert provides a moving account of the disappearances occurring all around us and traces the evolution of extinction as concept, from its first articulation by Georges Cuvier in revolutionary Paris up through the present day. The sixth extinction is likely to be mankind's most lasting legacy; as Kolbert observes, it compels us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.
"Intelligent Design" is being taught in our schools; educators are being asked to "teach the controversy" behind evolutionary theory. There is no controversy. Dawkins sifts through rich layers of scientific evidence—from living examples of natural selection to clues in the fossil record; from natural clocks that mark the vast epochs wherein evolution ran its course to the intricacies of developing embryos; from plate tectonics to molecular genetics—to make the airtight case that "we find ourselves perched on one tiny twig in the midst of a blossoming and flourishing tree of life and it is no accident, but the direct consequence of evolution by non-random selection." His unjaded passion for the natural world turns what might have been a negative argument, exposing the absurdities of the creationist position, into a positive offering to the reader: nothing less than a master’s vision of life, in all its splendor.
Sparked by a controversial debate in February 2014, Bill Nye has set off on an energetic campaign to spread awareness of evolution and the powerful way it shapes our lives. In Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation, he explains why race does not really exist; evaluates the true promise and peril of genetically modified food; reveals how new species are born, in a dog kennel and in a London subway; takes a stroll through 4.5 billion years of time; and explores the new search for alien life, including aliens right here on Earth.
With infectious enthusiasm, Bill Nye shows that evolution is much more than a rebuttal to creationism; it is an essential way to understand how nature works—and to change the world. It might also help you get a date on a Saturday night.
In the current debate about creationism and intelligent design, there is an element of the controversy that is rarely mentioned-the evidence. Yet the proof of evolution by natural selection is vast, varied, and magnificent. In this succinct and accessible summary of the facts supporting the theory of natural selection, Jerry A. Coyne dispels common misunderstandings and fears about evolution and clearly confirms the scientific truth that supports this amazing process of change. Weaving together the many threads of modern work in genetics, paleontology, geology, molecular biology, and anatomy that demonstrate the "indelible stamp" of the processes first proposed by Darwin, Why Evolution Is True does not aim to prove creationism wrong. Rather, by using irrefutable evidence, it sets out to prove evolution right.
The Story of the Human Body brilliantly illuminates as never before the major transformations that contributed key adaptations to the body: the rise of bipedalism; the shift to a non-fruit-based diet; the advent of hunting and gathering, leading to our superlative endurance athleticism; the development of a very large brain; and the incipience of cultural proficiencies. Lieberman also elucidates how cultural evolution differs from biological evolution, and how our bodies were further transformed during the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions.
While these ongoing changes have brought about many benefits, they have also created conditions to which our bodies are not entirely adapted, Lieberman argues, resulting in the growing incidence of obesity and new but avoidable diseases, such as type 2 diabetes. Lieberman proposes that many of these chronic illnesses persist and in some cases are intensifying because of “dysevolution,” a pernicious dynamic whereby only the symptoms rather than the causes of these maladies are treated. And finally—provocatively—he advocates the use of evolutionary information to help nudge, push, and sometimes even compel us to create a more salubrious environment.
(With charts and line drawings throughout.)
FINANCIAL TIMES (LONDON)
World renowned scientist Carl Sagan and acclaimed author Ann Druyan have written a ROOTS for the human species, a lucid and riveting account of how humans got to be the way we are. It shows with humor and drama that many of our key traits--self-awareness, technology, family ties, submission to authority, hatred for those a little different from ourselves, reason, and ethics--are rooted in the deep past, and illuminated by our kinship with other animals. Astonishing in its scope, brilliant in its insights, and an absolutely compelling read, SHADOWS OF FORGOTTEN ANCESTORS is a triumph of popular science.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
By examining fossils and DNA, he shows us that our hands actually resemble fish fins, our heads are organized like long-extinct jawless fish, and major parts of our genomes look and function like those of worms and bacteria. Your Inner Fish makes us look at ourselves and our world in an illuminating new light. This is science writing at its finest—enlightening, accessible and told with irresistible enthusiasm.
At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.
Why are rates of conditions like autism, asthma, obesity, and allergies exploding at an unprecedented pace? Why are humans living longer, getting smarter, and having far fewer kids? How might your lifestyle affect your unborn children and grandchildren? How will gene-editing technologies like CRISPR steer the course of human evolution? If Darwin were alive today, how would he explain this new world? Could our progeny eventually become a different species—or several?
In Evolving Ourselves, futurist Juan Enriquez and scientist Steve Gullans conduct a sweeping tour of how humans are changing the course of evolution—sometimes intentionally, sometimes not. For example:
• Globally, rates of obesity in humans nearly doubled between 1980 and 2014. What’s more, there’s evidence that other species, from pasture-fed horses to lab animals to house cats, are also getting fatter.
• As reported by U.S. government agencies, the rate of autism rose by 131 percent from 2001 to 2010, an increase that cannot be attributed simply to increases in diagnosis rates.
• Three hundred years ago, almost no one with a serious nut allergy lived long enough to reproduce. Today, despite an environment in which food allergies have increased by 50 percent in just over a decade, 17 million Americans who suffer from food allergies survive, thrive, and pass their genes and behaviors on to the next generation.
• In the pre-Twinkie era, early humans had quite healthy mouths. As we began cooking, bathing, and using antibiotics, the bacteria in our bodies changed dramatically and became far less diverse. Today the consequences are evident not only in our teeth but throughout our bodies and minds.
Though these harbingers of change are deeply unsettling, the authors argue that we are also in an epoch of tremendous opportunity. New advances in biotechnology help us mitigate the cruel forces of natural selection, from saving prematurely born babies to gene therapies for sickle cell anemia and other conditions. As technology like CRISPR enables us to take control of our genes, we will be able to alter our own species and many others—a good thing, given that our eventual survival will require space travel and colonization, enabled by a fundamental redesign of our bodies.
Future humans could become great caretakers of the planet, as well as a more diverse, more resilient, gentler, and more intelligent species—but only if we make the right choices now.
Intelligent, provocative, and optimistic, Evolving Ourselves is the ultimate guide to the next phase of life on Earth.
From the Hardcover edition.
What we read in the news today is full of subjectivity, half-truths, and blatant falsehoods; and thus it is more necessary now than ever to safeguard the truth with facts. In his provocative new book, evolutionary biologist Jerry A. Coyne aims to do exactly that in the arena of religion. In clear, dispassionate detail he explains why the toolkit of science, based on reason and empirical study, is reliable, while that of religion—including faith, dogma, and revelation—leads to incorrect, untestable, or conflicting conclusions.
Coyne is responding to a national climate in which over half of Americans don’t believe in evolution (and congressmen deny global warming), and warns that religious prejudices and strictures in politics, education, medicine, and social policy are on the rise. Extending the bestselling works of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens, he demolishes the claims of religion to provide verifiable “truth” by subjecting those claims to the same tests we use to establish truth in science.
Coyne irrefutably demonstrates the grave harm—to individuals and to our planet—in mistaking faith for fact in making the most important decisions about the world we live in.
Consciousness, morality, creativity, language, and art: these are the traits that make us human. Scientists have traditionally explained these qualities as merely a side effect of surplus brain size, but Miller argues that they were sexual attractors, not side effects. He bases his argument on Darwin’ s theory of sexual selection, which until now has played second fiddle to Darwin’ s theory of natural selection, and draws on ideas and research from a wide range of fields, including psychology, economics, history, and pop culture. Witty, powerfully argued, and continually thought-provoking, The Mating Mind is a landmark in our understanding of our own species.
Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize
On a desert island in the heart of the Galapagos archipelago, where Darwin received his first inklings of the theory of evolution, two scientists, Peter and Rosemary Grant, have spent twenty years proving that Darwin did not know the strength of his own theory. For among the finches of Daphne Major, natural selection is neither rare nor slow: it is taking place by the hour, and we can watch.
In this dramatic story of groundbreaking scientific research, Jonathan Weiner follows these scientists as they watch Darwin's finches and come up with a new understanding of life itself. The Beak of the Finch is an elegantly written and compelling masterpiece of theory and explication in the tradition of Stephen Jay Gould.
With a new preface.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
The Earth teems with life: in its oceans, forests, skies and cities. Yet there’s a black hole at the heart of biology. We do not know why complex life is the way it is, or, for that matter, how life first began. In The Vital Question, award-winning author and biochemist Nick Lane radically reframes evolutionary history, putting forward a solution to conundrums that have puzzled generations of scientists.
For two and a half billion years, from the very origins of life, single-celled organisms such as bacteria evolved without changing their basic form. Then, on just one occasion in four billion years, they made the jump to complexity. All complex life, from mushrooms to man, shares puzzling features, such as sex, which are unknown in bacteria. How and why did this radical transformation happen?
The answer, Lane argues, lies in energy: all life on Earth lives off a voltage with the strength of a lightning bolt. Building on the pillars of evolutionary theory, Lane’s hypothesis draws on cutting-edge research into the link between energy and cell biology, in order to deliver a compelling account of evolution from the very origins of life to the emergence of multicellular organisms, while offering deep insights into our own lives and deaths.
Both rigorous and enchanting, The Vital Question provides a solution to life’s vital question: why are we as we are, and indeed, why are we here at all?
But what does it mean?
Arguably the most significant scientific discovery of the new century, the mapping of the twenty-three pairs of chromosomes that make up the human genome raises almost as many questions as it answers. Questions that will profoundly impact the way we think about disease, about longevity, and about free will. Questions that will affect the rest of your life.
Genome offers extraordinary insight into the ramifications of this incredible breakthrough. By picking one newly discovered gene from each pair of chromosomes and telling its story, Matt Ridley recounts the history of our species and its ancestors from the dawn of life to the brink of future medicine. From Huntington's disease to cancer, from the applications of gene therapy to the horrors of eugenics, Matt Ridley probes the scientific, philosophical, and moral issues arising as a result of the mapping of the genome. It will help you understand what this scientific milestone means for you, for your children, and for humankind.
This is the book Richard Dawkins was meant to write: a brilliant assessment of what science is (and isn't), a tribute to science not because it is useful but because it is uplifting.
From the most celebrated heir to Darwin comes a groundbreaking book on evolution, the summa work of Edward O. Wilson's legendary career. Sparking vigorous debate in the sciences, The Social Conquest of Earth upends “the famous theory that evolution naturally encourages creatures to put family first” (Discover). Refashioning the story of human evolution, Wilson draws on his remarkable knowledge of biology and social behavior to demonstrate that group selection, not kin selection, is the premier driving force of human evolution. In a work that James D. Watson calls “a monumental exploration of the biological origins of the human condition,” Wilson explains how our innate drive to belong to a group is both a “great blessing and a terrible curse” (Smithsonian). Demonstrating that the sources of morality, religion, and the creative arts are fundamentally biological in nature, the renowned Harvard University biologist presents us with the clearest explanation ever produced as to the origin of the human condition and why it resulted in our domination of the Earth’s biosphere.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
With sales of well over one million copies in North America alone, the commercial success of Gould's books now matches their critical acclaim. The Panda's Thumb will introduce a new generation of readers to this unique writer, who has taken the art of the scientific essay to new heights.
Were dinosaurs really dumber than lizards? Why, after all, are roughly the same number of men and women born into the world? What led the famous Dr. Down to his theory of mongolism, and its racist residue? What do the panda's magical "thumb" and the sea turtle's perilous migration tell us about imperfections that prove the evolutionary rule? The wonders and mysteries of evolutionary biology are elegantly explored in these and other essays by the celebrated natural history writer Stephen Jay Gould.
In Cat Sense, renowned anthrozoologist John Bradshaw takes us further into the mind of the domestic cat than ever before, using cutting-edge scientific research to dispel the myths and explain the true nature of our feline friends. Tracing the cat's evolution from lone predator to domesticated companion, Bradshaw shows that although cats and humans have been living together for at least eight thousand years, cats remain independent, predatory, and wary of contact with their own kind, qualities that often clash with our modern lifestyles. Cats still have three out of four paws firmly planted in the wild, and within only a few generations can easily revert back to the independent way of life that was the exclusive preserve of their predecessors some 10,000 years ago. Cats are astonishingly flexible, and given the right environment they can adapt to a life of domesticity with their owners-but to continue do so, they will increasingly need our help. If we're to live in harmony with our cats, Bradshaw explains, we first need to understand their inherited quirks: understanding their body language, keeping their environments-however small-sufficiently interesting, and becoming more proactive in managing both their natural hunting instincts and their relationships with other cats.
A must-read for any cat lover, Cat Sense offers humane, penetrating insights about the domestic cat that challenge our most basic assumptions and promise to dramatically improve our pets' lives-and ours.
In GO WILD, Harvard Medical School Professor John Ratey, MD, and journalist Richard Manning reveal that although civilization has rapidly evolved, our bodies have not kept pace. This mismatch affects every area of our lives, from our general physical health to our emotional wellbeing. Investigating the power of living according to our genes in the areas of diet, exercise, sleep, nature, mindfulness and more, GO WILD examines how tapping into our core DNA combats modern disease and psychological afflictions, from Autism and Depression to Diabetes and Heart Disease. By focusing on the ways of the past, it is possible to secure a healthier and happier future, and GO WILD will show you how.
**Discover magazine Top 5 Summer Reads**
**People magazine Best Summer Reads**
“A lovely, big-hearted book…brimming with compassion and the tales of the many, many humans who devote their days to making animals well” (The New York Times).
Have you ever wondered if your dog might be a bit depressed? How about heartbroken or homesick? Animal Madness takes these questions seriously, exploring the topic of mental health and recovery in the animal kingdom and turning up lessons that Publishers Weekly calls “Illuminating…Braitman’s delightful balance of humor and poignancy brings each case of life….[Animal Madness’s] continuous dose of hope should prove medicinal for humans and animals alike.”
Susan Orlean calls Animal Madness “a marvelous, smart, eloquent book—as much about human emotion as it is about animals and their inner lives.” It is “a gem…that can teach us much about the wildness of our own minds” (Psychology Today).
This remarkable medical parallel launched Natterson-Horowitz on a journey of discovery that reshaped her entire approach to medicine. She began to search for other connections between the human and animal worlds: Do animals get breast cancer, anxiety-induced fainting spells, sexually transmitted diseases? Do they suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder, bulimia, addiction?
The answers were astonishing. Dinosaurs suffered from brain cancer. Koalas catch chlamydia. Reindeer seek narcotic escape in hallucinogenic mushrooms. Stallions self-mutilate. Gorillas experience clinical depression.
Joining forces with science journalist Kathryn Bowers, Natterson-Horowitz employs fascinating case studies and meticulous scholarship to present a revelatory understanding of what animals can teach us about the human body and mind. “Zoobiquity” is the term the authors have coined to refer to a new, species-spanning approach to health. Delving into evolution, anthropology, sociology, biology, veterinary science, and zoology, they break down the walls between disciplines, redefining the boundaries of medicine.
Zoobiquity explores how animal and human commonality can be used to diagnose, treat, and heal patients of all species. Both authoritative and accessible, offering cutting-edge research through captivating narratives, this provocative book encourages us to see our essential connection to all living beings.
Chip Walter draws on new scientific discoveries to tell the fascinating tale of how our survival was linked to our ancestors being born more prematurely than others, having uniquely long and rich childhoods, evolving a new kind of mind that made us resourceful and emotionally complex; how our highly social nature increased our odds of survival; and why we became self aware in ways that no other animal seems to be. Last Ape Standing also profiles the mysterious "others" who evolved with us-the Neanderthals of Europe, the "Hobbits" of Indonesia, the Denisovans of Siberia and the just-discovered Red Deer Cave people of China who died off a mere eleven thousand years ago.
Last Ape Standing is evocative science writing at its best-a witty, engaging and accessible story that explores the evolutionary events that molded us into the remarkably unique creatures we are; an investigation of why we do, feel, and think the things we do as a species, and as people-good and bad, ingenious and cunning, heroic and conflicted.
Cosmology, geology, archeology, and population and environmental studies—all figure in David Christian's account, which is an ambitious overview of the emerging field of "Big History." Maps of Time opens with the origins of the universe, the stars and the galaxies, the sun and the solar system, including the earth, and conducts readers through the evolution of the planet before human habitation. It surveys the development of human society from the Paleolithic era through the transition to agriculture, the emergence of cities and states, and the birth of the modern, industrial period right up to intimations of possible futures. Sweeping in scope, finely focused in its minute detail, this riveting account of the known world, from the inception of space-time to the prospects of global warming, lays the groundwork for world history—and Big History—true as never before to its name.
In his last book, Neil Shubin delved into the amazing connections between human anatomy—our hands, our jaws—and the structures in the fish that first took over land 375 million years ago. Now, with his trademark clarity and exuberance, he takes an even more expansive approach to the question of why we are the way we are. Starting once again with fossils, Shubin turns his gaze skyward. He shows how the entirety of the universe's 14-billion-year history can be seen in our bodies. From our very molecular composition (a result of stellar events at the origin of our solar system), he makes clear, through the working of our eyes, how the evolution of the cosmos has had profound effects on the development of human life on earth.
From the Hardcover edition.
The fossil record is now one of the strongest lines of evidence for evolution. In this engaging and richly illustrated book, Donald R. Prothero weaves an entertaining though intellectually rigorous history out of the transitional forms and series that dot the fossil record. Beginning with a brief discussion of the nature of science and the "monkey business of creationism," Prothero tackles subjects ranging from flood geology and rock dating to neo-Darwinism and macroevolution. He covers the ingredients of the primordial soup, the effects of communal living, invertebrate transitions, the development of the backbone, the reign of the dinosaurs, the mammalian explosion, and the leap from chimpanzee to human. Prothero pays particular attention to the recent discovery of "missing links" that complete the fossil timeline and details the debate between biologists over the mechanisms driving the evolutionary process.
Evolution is an absorbing combination of firsthand observation, scientific discovery, and trenchant analysis. With the teaching of evolution still an issue, there couldn't be a better moment for a book clarifying the nature and value of fossil evidence. Widely recognized as a leading expert in his field, Prothero demonstrates that the transformation of life on this planet is far more awe inspiring than the narrow view of extremists.
In this delightful and original book, Jonathan Gottschall offers the first unified theory of storytelling. He argues that stories help us navigate life’s complex social problems—just as flight simulators prepare pilots for difficult situations. Storytelling has evolved, like other behaviors, to ensure our survival.
Drawing on the latest research in neuroscience, psychology, and evolutionary biology, Gottschall tells us what it means to be a storytelling animal. Did you know that the more absorbed you are in a story, the more it changes your behavior? That all children act out the same kinds of stories, whether they grow up in a slum or a suburb? That people who read more fiction are more empathetic?
Of course, our story instinct has a darker side. It makes us vulnerable to conspiracy theories, advertisements, and narratives about ourselves that are more “truthy” than true. National myths can also be terribly dangerous: Hitler’s ambitions were partly fueled by a story.
But as Gottschall shows in this remarkable book, stories can also change the world for the better. Most successful stories are moral—they teach us how to live, whether explicitly or implicitly, and bind us together around common values. We know we are master shapers of story. The Storytelling Animal finally reveals how stories shape us.
Horowitz introduces the reader to dogs’ perceptual and cognitive abilities and then draws a picture of what it might be like to be a dog. What’s it like to be able to smell not just every bit of open food in the house but also to smell sadness in humans, or even the passage of time? How does a tiny dog manage to play successfully with a Great Dane? What is it like to hear the bodily vibrations of insects or the hum of a fluorescent light? Why must a person on a bicycle be chased? What’s it like to use your mouth as a hand? In short, what is it like for a dog to experience life from two feet off the ground, amidst the smells of the sidewalk, gazing at our ankles or knees?
Inside of a Dog explains these things and much more. The answers can be surprising—once we set aside our natural inclination to anthropomorphize dogs. Inside of a Dog also contains up-to-the-minute research—on dogs’ detection of disease, the secrets of their tails, and their skill at reading our attention—that Horowitz puts into useful context. Although not a formal training guide, Inside of a Dog has practical application for dog lovers interested in understanding why their dogs do what they do. With a light touch and the weight of science behind her, Alexandra Horowitz examines the animal we think we know best but may actually understand the least. This book is as close as you can get to knowing about dogs without being a dog yourself.
Armed with a razor-sharp wit and brilliant, eye-opening research, Zuk takes us to the cutting edge of biology to show that evolution can work much faster than was previously realized, meaning that we are not biologically the same as our caveman ancestors. Contrary to what the glossy magazines would have us believe, we do not enjoy potato chips because they crunch just like the insects our forebears snacked on. And women don’t go into shoe-shopping frenzies because their prehistoric foremothers gathered resources for their clans. As Zuk compellingly argues, such beliefs incorrectly assume that we’re stuck—finished evolving—and have been for tens of thousands of years. She draws on fascinating evidence that examines everything from adults’ ability to drink milk to the texture of our ear wax to show that we’ve actually never stopped evolving. Our nostalgic visions of an ideal evolutionary past in which we ate, lived, and reproduced as we were “meant to” fail to recognize that we were never perfectly suited to our environment. Evolution is about change, and every organism is full of trade-offs.
From debunking the caveman diet to unraveling gender stereotypes, Zuk delivers an engrossing analysis of widespread paleofantasies and the scientific evidence that undermines them, all the while broadening our understanding of our origins and what they can really tell us about our present and our future.
There are thousands of working dogs all over the US and beyond with incredible abilities—they can find missing people, detect drugs and bombs, pinpoint unmarked graves of Civil War soldiers, or even find drowning victims more than two hundred feet below the surface of a lake. These abilities may seem magical or mysterious, but author Cat Warren shows the science, the rigorous training, and the skilled handling that underlie these creatures’ amazing abilities.
Cat Warren is a university professor and journalist who had tried everything she could think of to harness her dog Solo’s boundless energy and enthusiasm…until a behavior coach suggested she try training him to be a “working dog.” What started out as a hobby soon became a calling, as Warren was introduced to the hidden universe of dogs who do this essential work and the handlers who train them.
Her dog Solo has a fine nose and knows how to use it, but he’s only one of many astounding dogs in a varied field. Warren interviews cognitive psychologists, historians, medical examiners, epidemiologists, and forensic anthropologists, as well as the breeders, trainers, and handlers who work with and rely on these intelligent and adaptable animals daily. Along the way, Warren discovers story after story that prove the capabilities—as well as the very real limits—of working dogs and their human partners. Clear-eyed and unsentimental, Warren explains why our partnership with working dogs is woven into the fabric of society, and why we keep finding new uses for the wonderful noses of our four-legged friends.
With excitement and driving intelligence, Richard Fortey guides us from the barren globe spinning in space, through the very earliest signs of life in the sulphurous hot springs and volcanic vents of the young planet, the appearance of cells, the slow creation of an atmosphere and the evolution of myriad forms of plants and animals that could then be sustained, including the magnificent era of the dinosaurs, and on to the last moment before the debut of Homo sapiens.
Ranging across multiple scientific disciplines, explicating in wonderfully clear and refreshing prose their findings and arguments--about the origins of life, the causes of species extinctions and the first appearance of man--Fortey weaves this history out of the most delicate traceries left in rock, stone and earth. He also explains how, on each aspect of nature and life, scientists have reached the understanding we have today, who made the key discoveries, who their opponents were and why certain ideas won.
Brimful of wit, fascinating personal experience and high scholarship, this book may well be our best introduction yet to the complex history of life on Earth.
A Book-of-the-Month Club Main Selection With 32 pages of photographs
From the Hardcover edition.
“[An] extraordinarily wide-ranging and engaging book [about] the men who shaped the work of Charles Darwin . . . a book that enriches our understanding of how the struggle to think new thoughts is shared across time and space and people.”—The Sunday Telegraph (London)
Christmas, 1859. Just one month after the publication of On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin received an unsettling letter. He had expected criticism; in fact, letters were arriving daily, most expressing outrage and accusations of heresy. But this letter was different. It accused him of failing to acknowledge his predecessors, of taking credit for a theory that had already been discovered by others. Darwin realized that he had made an error in omitting from Origin of Species any mention of his intellectual forebears. Yet when he tried to trace all of the natural philosophers who had laid the groundwork for his theory, he found that history had already forgotten many of them.
Darwin’s Ghosts tells the story of the collective discovery of evolution, from Aristotle, walking the shores of Lesbos with his pupils, to Al-Jahiz, an Arab writer in the first century, from Leonardo da Vinci, searching for fossils in the mine shafts of the Tuscan hills, to Denis Diderot in Paris, exploring the origins of species while under the surveillance of the secret police, and the brilliant naturalists of the Jardin de Plantes, finding evidence for evolutionary change in the natural history collections stolen during the Napoleonic wars. Evolution was not discovered single-handedly, Rebecca Stott argues, contrary to what has become standard lore, but is an idea that emerged over many centuries, advanced by daring individuals across the globe who had the imagination to speculate on nature’s extraordinary ways, and who had the courage to articulate such speculations at a time when to do so was often considered heresy.
With each chapter focusing on an early evolutionary thinker, Darwin’s Ghosts is a fascinating account of a diverse group of individuals who, despite the very real dangers of challenging a system in which everything was presumed to have been created perfectly by God, felt compelled to understand where we came from. Ultimately, Stott demonstrates, ideas—including evolution itself—evolve just as animals and plants do, by intermingling, toppling weaker notions, and developing over stretches of time. Darwin’s Ghosts presents a groundbreaking new theory of an idea that has changed our very understanding of who we are.
Praise for Darwin’s Ghosts
“Absorbing . . . Stott captures the breathless excitement of an investigation on the cusp of the unknown. . . . A lively, original book.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Stott’s research is broad and unerring; her book is wonderful. . . . An exhilarating romp through 2,000 years of fascinating scientific history.”—Nature
“Stott brings Darwin himself to life. . . . [She] writes with a novelist’s flair. . . . Darwin and the ‘ghosts’ so richly described in Ms. Stott’s enjoyable book are the descendants of Aristotle and Bacon and the ancestors of today’s scientists.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Riveting . . . Stott has done a wonderful job in showing just how many extraordinary people had speculated on where we came from before the great theorist dispelled all doubts.”—The Guardian (U.K.)
From the Hardcover edition.
As historian Mark Essig reveals in Lesser Beasts, swine have such a bad reputation for precisely the same reasons they are so valuable as a source of food: they are intelligent, self-sufficient, and omnivorous. What’s more, he argues, we ignore our historic partnership with these astonishing animals at our peril. Tracing the interplay of pig biology and human culture from Neolithic villages 10,000 years ago to modern industrial farms, Essig blends culinary and natural history to demonstrate the vast importance of the pig and the tragedy of its modern treatment at the hands of humans. Pork, Essig explains, has long been a staple of the human diet, prized in societies from Ancient Rome to dynastic China to the contemporary American South. Yet pigs’ ability to track down and eat a wide range of substances (some of them distinctly unpalatable to humans) and convert them into edible meat has also led people throughout history to demonize the entire species as craven and unclean. Today’s unconscionable system of factory farming, Essig explains, is only the latest instance of humans taking pigs for granted, and the most recent evidence of how both pigs and people suffer when our symbiotic relationship falls out of balance.
An expansive, illuminating history of one of our most vital yet unsung food animals, Lesser Beasts turns a spotlight on the humble creature that, perhaps more than any other, has been a mainstay of civilization since its very beginnings—whether we like it or not.
In this work synthesizing thirty years of research, psychologist, historian of science, and the world's best-known skeptic Michael Shermer upends the traditional thinking about how humans form beliefs about the world. Simply put, beliefs come first and explanations for beliefs follow. The brain, Shermer argues, is a belief engine. From sensory data flowing in through the senses, the brain naturally begins to look for and find patterns, and then infuses those patterns with meaning. Our brains connect the dots of our world into meaningful patterns that explain why things happen, and these patterns become beliefs. Once beliefs are formed the brain begins to look for and find confirmatory evidence in support of those beliefs, which accelerates the process of reinforcing them, and round and round the process goes in a positive-feedback loop of belief confirmation. Shermer outlines the numerous cognitive tools our brains engage to reinforce our beliefs as truths.
Interlaced with his theory of belief, Shermer provides countless real-world examples of how this process operates, from politics, economics, and religion to conspiracy theories, the supernatural, and the paranormal. Ultimately, he demonstrates why science is the best tool ever devised to determine whether or not a belief matches reality.
In 1994 Bryan Sykes was called in as an expert to examine the frozen remains of a man trapped in glacial ice in northern Italy for over 5000 years—the Ice Man. Sykes succeeded in extracting DNA from the Ice Man, but even more important, writes Science News, was his "ability to directly link that DNA to Europeans living today." In this groundbreaking book, Sykes reveals how the identification of a particular strand of DNA that passes unbroken through the maternal line allows scientists to trace our genetic makeup all the way back to prehistoric times—to seven primeval women, the "seven daughters of Eve."
Neanderthal Man tells the story of geneticist Svante Pääbo's mission to answer this question: what can we learn from the genomes of our closest evolutionary relatives? Beginning with the study of DNA in Egyptian mummies in the early 1980s and culminating in the sequencing of the Neanderthal genome in 2010, Neanderthal Man describes the events, intrigues, failures, and triumphs of these scientifically rich years through the lens of the pioneer and inventor of the field of ancient DNA. We learn that Neanderthal genes offer a unique window into the lives of our hominid relatives and may hold the key to unlocking the mystery of why humans survived while Neanderthals went extinct. Pääbo's findings have not only redrawn our family tree, but recast the fundamentals of human history--the biological beginnings of fully modern Homo sapiens, the direct ancestors of all people alive today.
In Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny, Wright asserts that, ever since the primordial ooze, life has followed a basic pattern. Organisms and human societies alike have grown more complex by mastering the challenges of internal cooperation. Wright's narrative ranges from fossilized bacteria to vampire bats, from stone-age villages to the World Trade Organization, uncovering such surprises as the benefits of barbarian hordes and the useful stability of feudalism. Here is history endowed with moral significance–a way of looking at our biological and cultural evolution that suggests, refreshingly, that human morality has improved over time, and that our instinct to discover meaning may itself serve a higher purpose. Insightful, witty, profound, Nonzero offers breathtaking implications for what we believe and how we adapt to technology's ongoing transformation of the world.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Scattered across the globe, these remarkable plants and animals continue to mark seminal events in geological time. From a moonlit beach in Delaware, where the hardy horseshoe crab shuffles its way to a frenzy of mass mating just as it did 450 million years ago, to the dense rainforests of New Zealand, where the elusive, unprepossessing velvet worm has burrowed deep into rotting timber since before the breakup of the ancient supercontinent, to a stretch of Australian coastline with stromatolite formations that bear witness to the Precambrian dawn, the existence of these survivors offers us a tantalizing glimpse of pivotal points in evolutionary history. These are not “living fossils” but rather a handful of tenacious creatures of days long gone.
Written in buoyant, sparkling prose, Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms is a marvelously captivating exploration of the world’s old-timers combining the very best of science writing with an explorer’s sense of adventure and wonder.
One of Amazon's Best Science Books of 2013
A Hudson Booksellers Staff Pick for the Best Books of 2013
One of Publishers Weekly's Top Ten Spring Science Books
Selected by Apple's iBookstore as one of the best books of April
A Bookshop Santa Cruz Staff Pick
Dinosaurs, with their awe-inspiring size, terrifying claws and teeth, and otherworldly abilities, occupy a sacred place in our childhoods. They loom over museum halls, thunder through movies, and are a fundamental part of our collective imagination. In My Beloved Brontosaurus, the dinosaur fanatic Brian Switek enriches the childlike sense of wonder these amazing creatures instill in us. Investigating the latest discoveries in paleontology, he breathes new life into old bones.
Switek reunites us with these mysterious creatures as he visits desolate excavation sites and hallowed museum vaults, exploring everything from the sex life of Apatosaurus and T. rex's feather-laden body to just why dinosaurs vanished. (And of course, on his journey, he celebrates the book's titular hero, "Brontosaurus"—who suffered a second extinction when we learned he never existed at all—as a symbol of scientific progress.)
With infectious enthusiasm, Switek questions what we've long held to be true about these beasts, weaving in stories from his obsession with dinosaurs, which started when he was just knee-high to a Stegosaurus. Endearing, surprising, and essential to our understanding of our own evolution and our place on Earth, My Beloved Brontosaurus is a book that dinosaur fans and anyone interested in scientific progress will cherish for years to come.
The real story of AIDS—how it originated with a virus in a chimpanzee, jumped to one human, and then infected more than 60 million people—is very different from what most of us think we know. Recent research has revealed dark surprises and yielded a radically new scenario of how AIDS began and spread. Excerpted and adapted from the book Spillover, with a new introduction by the author, Quammen's hair-raising investigation tracks the virus from chimp populations in the jungles of southeastern Cameroon to laboratories across the globe, as he unravels the mysteries of when, where, and under what circumstances such a consequential "spillover" can happen. An audacious search for answers amid more than a century of data, The Chimp and the River tells the haunting tale of one of the most devastating pandemics of our time.
This horrific chain of events is now widely accepted as the solution to a great scientific mystery: what caused the extinction of the dinosaurs? Walter Alvarez, one of the Berkeley scientists who discovered evidence of the impact, tells the story behind the development of the initially controversial theory. It is a saga of high adventure in remote locations, of arduous data collection and intellectual struggle, of long periods of frustration ended by sudden breakthroughs, of friendships made and lost, and of the exhilaration of discovery that forever altered our understanding of Earth's geological history.
In 1976 a deadly virus emerged from the Congo forest. As swiftly as it came, it disappeared, leaving no trace. Over the four decades since, Ebola has emerged sporadically, each time to devastating effect. It can kill up to 90 percent of its victims. In between these outbreaks, it is untraceable, hiding deep in the jungle. The search is on to find Ebola’s elusive host animal. And until we find it, Ebola will continue to strike. Acclaimed science writer and explorer David Quammen first came near the virus while he was traveling in the jungles of Gabon, accompanied by local men whose village had been devastated by a recent outbreak. Here he tells the story of Ebola—its past, present, and its unknowable future.
Extracted from Spillover by David Quammen, updated and with additional material.