A fascinating chronicle of the evolution of humankind traces the genetic history of the organs of the human body, offering a revealing correlation between the distant past and present-day human anatomy and physiology, behavior, illness, and DNA. Reprint. 75,000 first printing.
From one of our finest and most popular science writers, the best-selling author of Your Inner Fish, comes the answer to a scientific mystery story as big as the world itself: How have astronomical events that took place millions of years ago created the unique qualities of the human species? 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.
Author: Daniel J. Fairbanks
Publisher: Prometheus Books
Release Date: 2009-09-18
Since the publication in 1859 of Darwin’s Origin of Species, debate over the theory of evolution has been continuous and often impassioned. In recent years, opponents of "Darwin’s dangerous idea" have mounted history’s most sophisticated and generously funded attack, claiming that evolution is "a theory in crisis." Ironically, these claims are being made at a time when the explosion of information from genome projects has revealed the most compelling and overwhelming evidence of evolution ever discovered. Much of the latest evidence of human evolution comes not from our genes, but from so-called "junk DNA," leftover relics of our evolutionary history that make up the vast majority of our DNA. Relics of Eden explores this powerful DNA-based evidence of human evolution. The "relics" are the millions of functionally useless but scientifically informative remnants of our evolutionary ancestry trapped in the DNA of every person on the planet. For example, the analysis of the chimpanzee and Rhesus monkey genomes shows indisputable evidence of the human evolutionary relationship with other primates. Over 95 percent of our genome is identical with that of chimpanzees and we also have a good deal in common with other animal species. Author Daniel J. Fairbanks also discusses what DNA analysis reveals about where humans originated. The diversity of DNA sequences repeatedly confirms the archeological evidence that humans originated in sub-Saharan Africa (the "Eden" of the title) and from there migrated through the Middle East and Asia to Europe, Australia, and the Americas. In conclusion, Fairbanks confronts the supposed dichotomy between evolution and religion, arguing that both science and religion are complementary ways to seek truth. He appeals to the vast majority of Americans who hold religious convictions not to be fooled by the pseudoscience of Creationists and Intelligent Design advocates and to abandon the false dichotomy between religion and real science. This concise, very readable presentation of recent genetic research is completely accessible to the nonspecialist and makes for enlightening and fascinating reading.
In this book the author, a Harvard evolutionary biologist presents an account of how the human body has evolved over millions of years, examining how an increasing disparity between the needs of Stone Age bodies and the realities of the modern world are fueling a paradox of greater longevity and chronic disease. It illuminates 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. The author 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, the author argues, resulting in the growing incidence of obesity and new but avoidable diseases, such as type 2 diabetes. The author 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, he advocates the use of evolutionary information to help nudge, push, and sometimes even compel us to create a more salubrious environment. -- From publisher's web site.
Author: Carl Zimmer
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release Date: 1999-09-08
AT THE WATER'S EDGE is a beautifully-written, accessible account of the greatest evolutionary mystery of all. We all know about evolution but it still seems absurd that our ancestors were fish. How did we ever get ashore? How did we make legs, arms and our extremely complex intelligence? Darwin's natural selection was the key to solving generation-to-generation evolution - microevolution - but it could only point us to an explanation still to come of the engines of macroevolution, the transformation of body shapes across millions of years. Carl Zimmer takes the reader on a fascinating quest to understand their beginnings, from pre-Darwinian scientists struggling to interpret early fossil discoveries to latter day geneticists, from whale graveyards in the deserts of Egypt to an amazing find in a forgotten specimen drawer at Oxford University. Including all the latest scientific research, AT THE WATER'S EDGE reveals how macroevolution works and, in doing so, provides a comprehensive, lucid and authoritative answer to the mystery of how nature actually made itself.
Author: Jerry A. Coyne
Publisher: OUP Oxford
Release Date: 2010-01-14
For all the discussion in the media about creationism and 'Intelligent Design', virtually nothing has been said about the evidence in question - the evidence for evolution by natural selection. Yet, as this succinct and important book shows, that evidence is vast, varied, and magnificent, and drawn from many disparate fields of science. The very latest research is uncovering a stream of evidence revealing evolution in action - from the actual observation of a species splitting into two, to new fossil discoveries, to the deciphering of the evidence stored in our genome. Why Evolution is True weaves together the many threads of modern work in genetics, palaeontology, geology, molecular biology, anatomy, and development to demonstrate the 'indelible stamp' of the processes first proposed by Darwin. It is a crisp, lucid, and accessible statement that will leave no one with an open mind in any doubt about the truth of evolution.
Author: Francisco J. Ayala
Publisher: JHU Press
Release Date: 2014-02-21
Traces scholarly thought from the nineteenth-century birth of evolutionary biology to the mapping of the human genome through forty-eight essays, arranged in chronological order, each preceded by a one-page essay that explains the significance of the chosen work.
Author: Kenneth P. Dial
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Release Date: 2015-07-20
How did flying birds evolve from running dinosaurs, terrestrial trotting tetrapods from swimming fish, and whales return to swim in the sea? These are some of the great transformations in the history of life; events that have captured the imagination of scientists and the general public alike. At first glance, these major evolutionary events seem utterly impossible. The before and after look so fundamentally different that the great transformations of the history of life not only seem impossible, but unknowable. The 500 million year history of vertebrates is filled with change and, as a consequence, every living species contains within its structure, DNA, and fossil record, a narrative of them. A battery of new techniques and approaches, from diverse fields of inquiry, are now being marshaled to explore classic questions of evolution. These approaches span multiple levels of biological organization, from DNA sequences, to organs, to the physiology and ecology of whole organisms. Analysis of developmental systems reveals deep homologies of the mechanisms that pattern organs as different as bird wings and fish fins. Whales with legs are one of a number of creatures that tell us of the great transformations in the history of life. Expeditions have discovered worms with a kind of head, fishes with elbows, wrists, and necks; feathered dinosaurs, and human precursors to name only a few. Indeed, in the last 20 years, paleontologists have discovered more creatures informative of evolutionary transitions than in the previous millennium. The Great Transformations captures the excitement of these new discoveries by bringing diverse teams of renowned scientists together to attack particular transformations, and to do so in a contents organized by body part--head, neck, fins, limbs, and then the entire bauplan. It is a work that will transform evolutionary biology and paleontology.
Author: Andrew H. Knoll
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Release Date: 2015-03-22
Australopithecines, dinosaurs, trilobites--such fossils conjure up images of lost worlds filled with vanished organisms. But in the full history of life, ancient animals, even the trilobites, form only the half-billion-year tip of a nearly four-billion-year iceberg. Andrew Knoll explores the deep history of life from its origins on a young planet to the incredible Cambrian explosion, presenting a compelling new explanation for the emergence of biological novelty. The very latest discoveries in paleontology--many of them made by the author and his students--are integrated with emerging insights from molecular biology and earth system science to forge a broad understanding of how the biological diversity that surrounds us came to be. Moving from Siberia to Namibia to the Bahamas, Knoll shows how life and environment have evolved together through Earth's history. Innovations in biology have helped shape our air and oceans, and, just as surely, environmental change has influenced the course of evolution, repeatedly closing off opportunities for some species while opening avenues for others. Readers go into the field to confront fossils, enter the lab to discern the inner workings of cells, and alight on Mars to ask how our terrestrial experience can guide exploration for life beyond our planet. Along the way, Knoll brings us up-to-date on some of science's hottest questions, from the oldest fossils and claims of life beyond the Earth to the hypothesis of global glaciation and Knoll's own unifying concept of ''permissive ecology.'' In laying bare Earth's deepest biological roots, Life on a Young Planet helps us understand our own place in the universe--and our responsibility as stewards of a world four billion years in the making. In a new preface, Knoll describes how the field has broadened and deepened in the decade since the book's original publication.
Author: Peter Holland
Publisher: OUP Oxford
Release Date: 2011-11-24
The animal world is immensely diverse, and our understanding of it has been greatly enhanced by analysis of DNA and the study of evolution and development ('evo-devo'). In this Very Short Introduction Peter Holland presents a modern tour of the animal kingdom. Beginning with the definition of animals (not obvious in biological terms), he takes the reader through the high-level groupings of animals (phyla) and new views on their evolutionary relationships based on molecular data, together with an overview of the biology of each group of animals. The phylogenetic view is central to zoology today and the volume will be of great value to all students of the life sciences, as well as providing a concise summary for the interested general reader. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.
Author: Donald E. Canfield
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Release Date: 2014-01-19
The air we breathe is twenty-one percent oxygen, an amount higher than on any other known world. While we may take our air for granted, Earth was not always an oxygenated planet. How did it become this way? Donald Canfield—one of the world's leading authorities on geochemistry, earth history, and the early oceans—covers this vast history, emphasizing its relationship to the evolution of life and the evolving chemistry of the Earth. Canfield guides readers through the various lines of scientific evidence, considers some of the wrong turns and dead ends along the way, and highlights the scientists and researchers who have made key discoveries in the field. Showing how Earth’s atmosphere developed over time, Oxygen takes readers on a remarkable journey through the history of the oxygenation of our planet. Some images inside the book are unavailable due to digital copyright restrictions.
There are four men whose life's work helped free science from the straitjacket of religion. Three of the four - Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, and Charles Darwin - are widely heralded for their breakthroughs. The fourth, James Hutton, is comparatively unknown. A Scottish gentleman farmer, Hutton's observations on his small tract of land led him to a theory that directly contradicted biblical claims that the Earth was only 6,000 years old. Telling the story not only of Hutton, but of the rich intellectual milieu of the Scottish Enlightenment, which brought together some of the greatest thinkers of the age - from David Hume and Adam Smith to James Watt and Erasmus Darwin - The Man Who Found Time is an enlightening, engaging narrative about a little-known man and the science he established.
Author: Alice Roberts
Publisher: Heron Books
Release Date: 2015-11-03
In this compulsively readable book, Dr. Alice Roberts lays out the miraculously strange way in which the human body grows from a chemical (DNA) into a living, sentient being. A longtime professor and well-known TV presenter, Dr. Roberts is also an author of unusual ability, capable of synthesizing complex ideas and packing dense scientific information into lucid, beautiful prose. Bringing together the latest scientific discoveries and drawing on interviews with scientists from around the world, Dr. Roberts illustrates that our evolution has resulted in something that is awe-inspiring yet far from perfect. Our embryonic development is a quirky mix of new and old, with strokes of genius alongside accommodated glitches and imperfections that are all inherited from distant ancestors. For instance, our development and evolutionary past explains why, as embryos, we have what look like gills, and as adults we suffer from back pain. This is a tale of discovery, about ourselves and our environment, that explores why and how we have developed as we have, looking at the development of human physiognomy through the various lenses of embryology, genetics, anatomy, evolution, and zoology. It combines the remarkable set of skills Alice Roberts possesses as a medical doctor, anatomist, osteoarchaeologist, and writer. As Richard Dawkins put it, the reader emerges from her book "entertained and with a deeper understanding of yourself."
Author: Robert M. Hazen
Release Date: 2013
The author of the best-selling Science Matters outlines a radical new approach to geologic history that advances controversial theories that the Earth evolved and that life evolved from minerals, assessing supportive findings while explaining the impact of human actions.