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Your Inner Fish: A Journey Into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body

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Why do we look the way we do? What does the human hand have in common with the wing of a fly? Are breasts, sweat glands, and scales connected in some way? To better understand the inner workings of our bodies and to trace the origins of many of today's most common diseases, we have to turn to unexpected sources: worms, flies, and even fish. Neil Shubin, a leading paleontolo Why do we look the way we do? What does the human hand have in common with the wing of a fly? Are breasts, sweat glands, and scales connected in some way? To better understand the inner workings of our bodies and to trace the origins of many of today's most common diseases, we have to turn to unexpected sources: worms, flies, and even fish. Neil Shubin, a leading paleontologist and professor of anatomy who discovered Tiktaalik-the "missing link" that made headlines around the world in April 2006-tells the story of evolution by tracing the organs of the human body back millions of years, long before the first creatures walked the earth. By examining fossils and DNA, Shubin shows us that our hands actually resemble fish fins, our head is organized like that of a long-extinct jawless fish, and major parts of our genome look and function like those of worms and bacteria. Shubin makes us see ourselves and our world in a completely new light. Your Inner Fish is science writing at its finest-enlightening, accessible, and told with irresistible enthusiasm.


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Why do we look the way we do? What does the human hand have in common with the wing of a fly? Are breasts, sweat glands, and scales connected in some way? To better understand the inner workings of our bodies and to trace the origins of many of today's most common diseases, we have to turn to unexpected sources: worms, flies, and even fish. Neil Shubin, a leading paleontolo Why do we look the way we do? What does the human hand have in common with the wing of a fly? Are breasts, sweat glands, and scales connected in some way? To better understand the inner workings of our bodies and to trace the origins of many of today's most common diseases, we have to turn to unexpected sources: worms, flies, and even fish. Neil Shubin, a leading paleontologist and professor of anatomy who discovered Tiktaalik-the "missing link" that made headlines around the world in April 2006-tells the story of evolution by tracing the organs of the human body back millions of years, long before the first creatures walked the earth. By examining fossils and DNA, Shubin shows us that our hands actually resemble fish fins, our head is organized like that of a long-extinct jawless fish, and major parts of our genome look and function like those of worms and bacteria. Shubin makes us see ourselves and our world in a completely new light. Your Inner Fish is science writing at its finest-enlightening, accessible, and told with irresistible enthusiasm.

30 review for Your Inner Fish: A Journey Into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body

  1. 4 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    How are embryos like fossils? How did we come to have the hands, arms, heads, bone structures, ears, eyes and many of the other parts we have? It turns out that homo sap is a very jury-rigged critter, an accumulation of biological compromises and re-purposed parts. One can look at fossils to see how we got from there, waaaay back there, to here, and one can also find, in comparing embryos of different species, evidence of our developmental history. DNA tells tales. Neil Shubin follows both paths How are embryos like fossils? How did we come to have the hands, arms, heads, bone structures, ears, eyes and many of the other parts we have? It turns out that homo sap is a very jury-rigged critter, an accumulation of biological compromises and re-purposed parts. One can look at fossils to see how we got from there, waaaay back there, to here, and one can also find, in comparing embryos of different species, evidence of our developmental history. DNA tells tales. Neil Shubin follows both paths on his road to our past in a book that demonstrates popular science writing at its best. Neil Shubin with Tiktaalik or the other way around - image from the Chicago Tribune There is a wealth of fascinating material in this easy-to-read book on how human anatomy came to be. Paleontology, like Con Edison, swears by the motto “Dig we Must.” Shubin offers a quick intro into how one decides where one should dig to increase the odds of finding what you are looking for. He should know. Currently both a professor at the University of Chicago and Provost of the Field Museum, his primary claim to fame was as the person who located in the Canadian Arctic, a fossil, Tiktaalik roseae, a flat-headed fish/amphibian that marked the transition of animals from sea to land. This was front page news across the world in 2004. Looking at how embryos develop one can see remarkable similarities among species. Human embryos look a lot less different from embryos of other species than we as adults look from the fuller versions of other critters. Plunging into the DNA of each holds many answers. In Your Inner Fish, Shubin looks at different parts of the human body, for example teeth, and hands and arms, eyes and ears, then traces their structures back through the scientific record to see where each bit first appeared. This is way cool, and gives one some perspective into just how much we, as humans, are part of all life on earth (and who knows where else?) Children of Mother Earth - image from Feynmanino.watson.jp Did you know that "the head is made up of vertebrae that fused and grew a vault to hold our brains and sense organs?” (p 88) How about that “bones that are the upper and lower jaws in sharks are used by us to swallow and hear.” (p 92) There are many revelations of this sort. I was most impressed by a section that described how our ear was related to a sense organ, the neuromast, present in the sides of some fish. This figures prominently in our reaction to over-imbibing. People who overindulge in spirits experience spins. This has to do with a side-effect of alcohol not mixing well with the water in one’s ear, the ear that helps regulate our sense of balance. Just as the neuromast lets fishes know about the world around them, acting as a sense, and ultimately, balance organ, so too our ears use a very similar mechanism to help us retain our sense of balance. When alcohol mixes, poorly, with the water in our ears, it mucks up the works, thus that unfortunate spinning sensation This book offers a cornucopia of gee-whiz explanations just like those. Shubin shows how our genetic makeup makes us high-end mutts, the product of eons of accumulated changes, a creature designed by a committee. That baggage can get heavy at times. Elements of our makeup that made sense when we were hunter gatherers now leave us ill-prepared for sedentary life in the 21st century. Shubin has a gift for popular science writing. He says that he was “trying to understand the family tree of relatedness.” Clearly, he succeeded. There were only one or two times in the book when I felt at all strained. And his effervescent enthusiasm for his field is infectious. If I were a student, I would be offering bribes to anyone who could help get me into his class. My only gripe about this book is that it was too short. Maybe it needed more time to evolve. =============================EXTRA STUFF There is a nice interview with Shubin at BloggingHeads TV. It runs about 51 minutes and was never boring. Another is a piece from the University of Chicago that offers detail about Tiktaalik roseae. Also Preeti provided a link in comment #5 below to a PBS series that has been made of this. I know I'll be watching. And Alfred added a link to an excellent Slate article on the series in comment #8. August 17, 2016 - a nifty item in the NY Times Science section - From Fins Into Hands: Scientists Discover a Deep Evolutionary Link - by Carl Zimmer

  2. 5 out of 5

    Trevor

    This really was a pleasure – another book recommended by Wendy – although what I liked most about it was possibly not the most obvious things about the book. From very early on I was in a bit of a world of my own and had started to wonder what to make of the fact that palaeontologists tend to make such wonderful science writers? I’ve said it before, but I think Gould is a better writer than Dawkins – and that is a big statement for me, as I tend to prefer an English voice over an American one. I This really was a pleasure – another book recommended by Wendy – although what I liked most about it was possibly not the most obvious things about the book. From very early on I was in a bit of a world of my own and had started to wonder what to make of the fact that palaeontologists tend to make such wonderful science writers? I’ve said it before, but I think Gould is a better writer than Dawkins – and that is a big statement for me, as I tend to prefer an English voice over an American one. I don’t mean that to be rude, but there are many more similarities between British English and Australian English than I think there are with American English – but Gould is in a class of his own. I get Gould, I understand him much more readily than I understand other ‘science writers’ and I think this is because I really understand his notions of development and change. His book, Life’s Grandeur (or Full House – in the States) is perhaps one of the greatest books on evolution ever written – as someone who had read many, many books on evolution before I had read Life’s Grandeur I really didn’t think I would ever ‘fundamentally’ learn anything new about evolution again – this book showed me just how limited my understanding of evolution really was. The only other book to come close to ‘teaching me anew’ something I thought I knew well enough was Deep Time. Although Your Inner Fish didn’t fundamentally change my view on the world – I think it might if you haven’t read much on evolutionary biology. Even if you have, there is much of interest here. But I’ve distracted myself – the thing that had me fascinated throughout this book was the idea that it was so well written and again, written by a palaeontologist. What is it that makes them such good writers? Well, I think it might have something to do with the fact that while the rest of science is focused on specialising to a nearly absurd level – palaeontologists are required to be generalists. They need to know geology to know how old rocks are, they need to know chemistry to know how bodily processes or rock processes or uranium processes work, they need to know physics (or at least physical chemistry) to understand why fossils don’t form in basalt, and they absolutely need to know a little theology because – well, because you know why. Also anatomy, DNA and physiology of many, many animals. Someone once said all science is either physics or it is stamp collecting - I think this book goes quite some way to showing that 'stamp collecting' has very many payoffs and physics has little to be quite so smug about. I think it might be the fact that there is so much they need to know, so many bits and pieces of knowledge – the fact that they need to be generalists – that makes them such good science writers. And this guy really is a very good science writer. Years ago I worked with a couple of Fundamentalist Christians. When we were talking one day one of them became outraged and said to me, “Do you really think I’m related to a FISH”. I had no idea how to answer him at first. Given Christians are quite fond of fish (Peter and all that – well, and those stickers they put on the back of their cars) it took me a second to work out the problem. I had also been expecting APE – so when he got worked up over fish, well, I wasn’t sure what had happened. I told him it was worse than he even imagined – I didn't want him to take it personally, but actually I thought he was related to a bacteria. He didn’t seem to find this a much more comforting notion and looked at me as if I was completely insane. He wasn't the first, he won't be the last. This book does not waste time arguing with fundies – and that has to be a good thing. Already there has been far too many trees cut down and turned to paper in a pointless attempt to achieve the impossible – that is, to convince those who have no interest in understanding that their God just didn’t create the world 4,000 years ago – I’ve decided that it is best to just ignore these people. They have self-selected themselves to a life of ignorance and blindness, unfortunately, nothing can be done for them – and whilst this is terribly sad, it is, nonetheless, a fact of life. What this book does do is work its way through your body and show interesting little facts about residual properties we have that are there due to our ancestry. And not just our paternal grandfather, Herbert St George, but those fish my fundamentalist friend was so outraged over. And more – down into the deep dark past when we were not even yet fish, back when we were yeast or something similar. Because that is one of the truly fascinating insights that fundamentalist Christians will never get to grasp – the ‘theory’ of evolution allows us to make remarkable predictions about how we live and how we have come to be the way we are. Those predictions allow us to delve into our genetic heritage and to make sense of where we have come from – and that knowledge, that insight, is not barren (in the sense that saying ‘God did it’ is barren), but rather allows us ways to potentially find solutions to some of our life’s ongoing ills. For me the end of this book was by far the most interesting – the part where he explains why some many of us suffer from haemorrhoids or varicose veins or hernias. Our inner fish can sometimes seem to have had it in for us. His explanation of the evolutionary choices that are made by animals (I mean that metaphorically, obviously) particularly around whether to see in colour or in black and white, is truly fascinating. I also learnt what is happening in my ear when I drink too much alcohol and the room starts spinning – and who would have thought that your eyes would tend to move to the right due to this misperception of a spinning room? Fascinating. In fact, the book is full of little bits of information about bodily processes I have experienced, but never really understood. And that is always a nice thing to find out. We do tend to spend quite a bit of time in our bodies and being told what they are up to can be quite something. This book is worth reading for his discussion on embryology alone, if you know nothing about this fascinating subject you should rush out and get hold of this book. I also enjoyed it for the stuff about dolphins not being able to smell, due to their on-again / off-again relationship with the sea. I also enjoyed him talking about the nerves in the face and how these twist and turn in ways one would never get them to do if one was ‘designing’ their function from scratch, so to speak. Not that this was actually what interested me, what really interested me was the discussion of the various muscles of the face that make us frown and smile or do things like that. I had a chicken/egg moment where I wondered which came first, the ability to frown to display perplexity – or was this something that was selected for so that the muscle become ‘honed’ over time, or generations rather? This was a fascinating book, with lots of asides to chew over – if you are interested in how we got here and how much of our inner fish is still obvious about us – this is a great book to read – now it is my turn to recommend it

  3. 5 out of 5

    ☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~ ⚡ϟ⚡ϟ⚡⛈ ✺❂❤❣

    My inner fish hails the author! This fish, tiktaalik, of course, it was more than fish! It could do push-ups!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Katherine Furman

    This book delivered exactly what I wanted: an explanation of evolution from fish (and before really) to man in layman's terms, but not moron layman--well-spoken layman. I had so many 'ah-ha!' moments while reading this book that my head began to spin a little, but in a good way. For instance, when I used to think about evolution the hardest part for me to wrap my mind around was the slow progress of body parts morphing from one form to the next. What this book enlightened me to was that it's not This book delivered exactly what I wanted: an explanation of evolution from fish (and before really) to man in layman's terms, but not moron layman--well-spoken layman. I had so many 'ah-ha!' moments while reading this book that my head began to spin a little, but in a good way. For instance, when I used to think about evolution the hardest part for me to wrap my mind around was the slow progress of body parts morphing from one form to the next. What this book enlightened me to was that it's not just the body parts themselves that are physically changing in particular organisms, but it's the genes that change which cause the bodily structure change. It was a lot easier for me to wrap my brain around slight changes in DNA that cause physical mutations that, if useful, are passed through generations. For some reason I had always put the horse before the cart and thought of evolution in terms of the physical change before the genetic mutation. But even if your questions on evolution are more sophisticated than my unfounded misguidance, you will learn a ton from this book. Structure by structure. Piece by piece. You can see how we evolved from our aquatic ancestors. This book was more informative and enlightening than all the anthropology classes I ever took in college. It's like getting a free minor in human evolution!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    It was refreshing to see recent (and not so recent) discoveries about evolution of the body and brain put into an accessible book. My medium rating reflects the limited impact I got from the book due to a former career in developmental neurobiology and past reading of inspired writing on evolution from the likes of Gould, Dawkins, and Wilson. Still it’s sexy and cool to hear about how structures evolved for one purpose get adapted for new functions when opportunities for expansion of life emerge It was refreshing to see recent (and not so recent) discoveries about evolution of the body and brain put into an accessible book. My medium rating reflects the limited impact I got from the book due to a former career in developmental neurobiology and past reading of inspired writing on evolution from the likes of Gould, Dawkins, and Wilson. Still it’s sexy and cool to hear about how structures evolved for one purpose get adapted for new functions when opportunities for expansion of life emerge. Thus it was for fish making the transition to land life as amphibians by “repurposing” bony structures of fins as forms that comprise bones of the limbs and paws/hands. That Shubin was involved in finding the rare fossils of transition forms above the Arctic circle brings some valuable authenticity to his story. He is in his element as well when he covers the lineage of the bones of the mammalian inner ear from bones of the jaws of ancient fish. And he does a pretty good job keeping it lively when he covers basic embryology behind basic body plans, limb development, and the evolution of teeth, smell, and eyes. He has to spread himself so thin, that the molecular genetic revolution spawned by the discovery of pattern genes called Hox and how cell fates are determined gets such a light treatment that much of the wonder and magnificence of these advances don’t really shine. The hook for the general reader is an altering of your mindset as highlighted in the book’s title, i.e. like Russian nesting dolls, the forms and patterns of our fish ancestors lie within us. The concept of lineage from one parent to another assures continuity even further back (he notes that he could have called the book “Your Inner Fly” given the analogous roles that Hox genes play in their development). Looking at the advances from the fish side of things, his playful perspective leads to a section near the end called “Why History Makes Us Sick”: In many ways, we humans are the fish equivalent of a hot-rod Beetle. Take the body plan of a fish, dress it up to be a mammal, tweak and twist that mammal until it walks on two legs, talks, thinks, and has superfine control of its fingers—and you have a recipe for problems. We can dress up a fish only so much without paying a price. In a perfectly designed world—one with no history—we would not have to suffer everything from hemorrhoids to cancer. That’s a pretty punchy way of looking at things, and he tries to make good on the conclusions by diverse examples of diseases and problems with our bodies that reflect on its evolutionary history. He just ran out of space in a 200 page book to do the subject justice. Somehow I miss the creative ability of Lewis Thomas to highlight the concept of mitochondria as bacterial invaders enslaved in all cells with the sentence along the lines of: “I sometimes wonder whether I am taking my mitochondia for a walk or whether they are taking me for a walk.” Shubin just doesn’t have such wonderful skill in writing. Few do, and many readers can still learn much from a decent B+ lecturer.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Vince

    If you have a semi-extensive science background, you'll probably find this book annoyingly vague. Lots of handwaving, little in the way of explanatory detail. If you're a fan of well-written scientific prose, you'll definitely be driven around the bend. The author was chosen to write this book because he made a terrific discovery in northern Canada a few years back -- a key missing link between fish and mammals -- not because he can write his way out of a wet paper bag. Each chapter lunges hither If you have a semi-extensive science background, you'll probably find this book annoyingly vague. Lots of handwaving, little in the way of explanatory detail. If you're a fan of well-written scientific prose, you'll definitely be driven around the bend. The author was chosen to write this book because he made a terrific discovery in northern Canada a few years back -- a key missing link between fish and mammals -- not because he can write his way out of a wet paper bag. Each chapter lunges hither and yon, little bits of distracting trivia are thrown in at random, and sequential thinking is fiercely avoided. Typical chapter: 1. Strained humorous anecdote 2. Wannabe paradigm-shifting question, dimly related to anecdote 3. Assorted poor summaries of recent research 4. Lame pun 5. Handwaving 6. Shocking answer to question: Mammals are a lot like fish! 7. Remember that joke I told? Ha ha, right!?

  7. 5 out of 5

    Max

    Your Inner Fish presents simply and straightforwardly a view of life that shows how much we are a part of this world no matter how much we want to think we are above it. Shubin’s easy going style with fascinating details is very engaging. Beyond the structural and developmental similarities of different species outlined in the book, most compelling were the discussions of placing a gene from one species in the embryo of another that seems distantly related. The results were startling. For exampl Your Inner Fish presents simply and straightforwardly a view of life that shows how much we are a part of this world no matter how much we want to think we are above it. Shubin’s easy going style with fascinating details is very engaging. Beyond the structural and developmental similarities of different species outlined in the book, most compelling were the discussions of placing a gene from one species in the embryo of another that seems distantly related. The results were startling. For example, a mouse gene for eye development placed in a fruit fly embryo caused normal fruit fly eyes to develop. Even more amazing is that the gene Noggin from a sea anemone placed in a frog embryo had the same effect as the frog gene would. It appears that all animals are made out of basically the same stuff. I felt humbled and enlightened learning about my deep connection to nature. Your Inner Fish is a wonderful book everyone can enjoy.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Nate

    There are lots of titles out there in American bookstores that see the need to defend the idea of evolution from the claims of creationism and intelligent design. But this book is not one of them. Shubin assumes that you accept evolution to be a fact about the world and gets on with it. He is a fish paleontologist who teaches anatomy to first year medical students at the University of Chicago. If that sounds strange, it won’t so much after you’ve read his book. Paleontology and comparative anato There are lots of titles out there in American bookstores that see the need to defend the idea of evolution from the claims of creationism and intelligent design. But this book is not one of them. Shubin assumes that you accept evolution to be a fact about the world and gets on with it. He is a fish paleontologist who teaches anatomy to first year medical students at the University of Chicago. If that sounds strange, it won’t so much after you’ve read his book. Paleontology and comparative anatomy can tell us a lot about the human body, especially when it’s backed up by molecular evidence in the DNA that we share with apes, fish, and even bacteria. Although it’s not directed at creationists, you may want to suggest this book to anyone who doubts evolution to be true yet hasn’t taken the time to look into it. It still amazes me when I hear people say, “You know, after 150 years, they still haven’t found one missing link.” People still say this. In a way, this book is entirely about the “missing links” that some people haven’t heard about.

  9. 5 out of 5

    HBalikov

    For those who enjoyed the writings of paleontologist and evolutionary biologist, Steven Jay Gould, here is another master in communicating complex science to the lay person. Neil Shubin has the smarts, the skills, the enthusiasm and the insights to enlighten us on the manner in which we humans are part of the world's amazing collection of life forms past and present. Gould taught at Harvard and was associated with the American Museum of Natural History. In remarkable parallel construction, Shubin For those who enjoyed the writings of paleontologist and evolutionary biologist, Steven Jay Gould, here is another master in communicating complex science to the lay person. Neil Shubin has the smarts, the skills, the enthusiasm and the insights to enlighten us on the manner in which we humans are part of the world's amazing collection of life forms past and present. Gould taught at Harvard and was associated with the American Museum of Natural History. In remarkable parallel construction, Shubin (who received his doctorate at Harvard) has similar roles with the University of Chicago and the Field Museum of Natural History. Shubin's self-imposed challenge is to explain how scientists can be so confident as they reconstruct relationships among "long-dead animals and the bodies and genes of recent ones." Gould starts with an example of the relationships and hierarchies among creatures: Everything with heads Everything with heads and limbs Everything with heads, limbs, breasts and hair Everything with heads, limbs, breasts, hair that walks on two legs He then focuses on the common plan for limbs: one bone, followed by two bones, then little "blobs", then fingers or toes. Pointing out that "the differences between creatures lie in differences in the shapes and sizes of the bones and the number of blobs, fingers and toes." He clearly lays out how the tools we now have allow us to explore and pin down relationships among creatures. I have to agree with the promo on the book's cover: "Your Inner Fish makes us look at ourselves and our world in an illuminating new light." Well done.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kapi

    Update 12/2009: Shubin and I have just released 40 figures in this book as a deck of PowerPoint slides with the hopes that educators across the country will be able to use them in their lectures on evolution and biology. They're available for free on the Tiktaalik website: http://tiktaalik.uchicago.edu/book-to... Hope they're useful! Review from 12/2007: Keep an eye out for this book's release in January of 2008. I worked extensively with the author while he was writing it, and was constantly ent Update 12/2009: Shubin and I have just released 40 figures in this book as a deck of PowerPoint slides with the hopes that educators across the country will be able to use them in their lectures on evolution and biology. They're available for free on the Tiktaalik website: http://tiktaalik.uchicago.edu/book-to... Hope they're useful! Review from 12/2007: Keep an eye out for this book's release in January of 2008. I worked extensively with the author while he was writing it, and was constantly entertained by the content and the style. Shubin skillfully uncovers the evidence for evolution we carry within our bodies every day, all the while weaving in personal anecdotes of adventures in the Arctic and self-discovery in cadaver labs. The book caters to a broad spectrum of folks - from your average person who vaguely remembers reading a headline about some dinosaur find last week to the most dedicated science geek. If you don't come away from the book with a greater appreciation of the profound connectedness of life, at least you'll gain an arsenal of fun facts to bust out at your next cocktail party. Definitely a good read!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Emma Sea

    This is a really nice introductory book on the clues that allow us to trace our decent from single-celled bacteria. It's a good companion to David Attenborough's Rise of the Animals: Triumph of the Vertebrates. https://youtu.be/o5Z4mPQBjqA Would suit high-school-aged readers as well as adults who haven't read on the topic before. For followup and more in-depth reading I recommend The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life This is a really nice introductory book on the clues that allow us to trace our decent from single-celled bacteria. It's a good companion to David Attenborough's Rise of the Animals: Triumph of the Vertebrates. https://youtu.be/o5Z4mPQBjqA Would suit high-school-aged readers as well as adults who haven't read on the topic before. For followup and more in-depth reading I recommend The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jimmy

    Entertaining and accessible science book. Evolution is so fascinating. I feel sorry for people who for whatever reason cannot accept who we are and where we all came from. The book can be summed up in this passage: "All of us are modified descendants of our parents or parental genetic information. I'm descended from my mother and father, but I'm not identical to them. My parents are modified descendants of their parents. And so on." A lot of meaning in those three words: "And so on."

  13. 5 out of 5

    Max

    Absolutely loved this book. As a biologist I am always interested in evolution, and this one didn't disappoint. The author writes well and has a great sense of humor. Also very readable for people with no background in science. And Tiktaalik is just cool. I wish I could see it alive. It could (probably) do push-ups!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Cindy

    I really enjoyed this exploration into our human body and how it reveals pieces of our evolutionary ancestors. You certainly don't need a science degree or much of a biology background at all to follow the steps from gills to ears or larynx. I would have appreciated more detail and a little less hand waving, but that's my inner scientist showing through. He had a very detailed bibliography, with not just titles he drew on and others to explore, but commentary on why they might be useful. I love a I really enjoyed this exploration into our human body and how it reveals pieces of our evolutionary ancestors. You certainly don't need a science degree or much of a biology background at all to follow the steps from gills to ears or larynx. I would have appreciated more detail and a little less hand waving, but that's my inner scientist showing through. He had a very detailed bibliography, with not just titles he drew on and others to explore, but commentary on why they might be useful. I love a scientist that's not afraid to give credit where it's due. I still wish I could breathe underwater, though. glub glub.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Fatma

    As a first step through Darwinism , Your inner fish is an ideal  beginning . Paleoantological , anatomical , embryological and genetic features supporting evolution are fluently presented through the book . My academic knowledge helped me a lot but were a reason as well for a brainstorm to start  , for Shubin's explanations were sometimes very superficials or maybe too simplified  . That is why I must read more and more about evolution in order to decipher  , perfectly , the answer of a  questio As a first step through Darwinism , Your inner fish is an ideal  beginning . Paleoantological , anatomical , embryological and genetic features supporting evolution are fluently presented through the book . My academic knowledge helped me a lot but were a reason as well for a brainstorm to start  , for Shubin's explanations were sometimes very superficials or maybe too simplified  . That is why I must read more and more about evolution in order to decipher  , perfectly , the answer of a  question mentioned at the end of the book  ''Are all these facts just coincidence, or do they reflect a law of biology we can see at work around us every day?"

  16. 5 out of 5

    Magila

    I threw in the towel with this book about half way through. I found it to be dull, and missing a voice. It feels mostly as if the author is trying to convince his audience that evolution is real. It's written part to the layperson, part to the scientist or student, it's neither a textbook not a successful popular work to me. I love scientific books, and could point folks to a few which I believe were amongst the best that I read in the last year or two, but this book just misses the mark. I woul I threw in the towel with this book about half way through. I found it to be dull, and missing a voice. It feels mostly as if the author is trying to convince his audience that evolution is real. It's written part to the layperson, part to the scientist or student, it's neither a textbook not a successful popular work to me. I love scientific books, and could point folks to a few which I believe were amongst the best that I read in the last year or two, but this book just misses the mark. I would not read this unless you are heavily vested in the subject matter and can't stop yourself. Otherwise, I believe there are better places to invest your time and would suggest the bulk of the reviews are from folks who are more excited about evolution in general than they actually were by this book. **As an aside, this is a challenge in Crowdsourcing and books. We have a terribly skewed sample pool when it comes to books and rankings. I generally only pick up books that are suggested to me, or subject matter I enjoy. Therefore, I am predisposed towards liking them more, and this raises their scores. You don't see me giving tons of books 1 or 2 stars because I would never even crack the book open. Because I was so interested in this topic, I persevered through half the book before finally deciding the lack of clear voice, and/or interesting writing style was just too much. The sad truth is it will be impossible to read every book I would like to in my lifetime, so I have to quit some to make room for others.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Greta G

    “It’s a long way from Tiktaalik to humanity. The important, and often surprising, fact is that most of the major bones humans use to walk, throw, or grasp first appear in animals tens to hundreds of millions of years before. The first bits of our upper arm and leg are in 380-million-year-old fish like Eusthenopteron. Tiktaalik reveals the early stages in the evolution of our wrist, palm, and finger area. The first true fingers and toes are seen in 365-million-year-old amphibians like Acanthosteg “It’s a long way from Tiktaalik to humanity. The important, and often surprising, fact is that most of the major bones humans use to walk, throw, or grasp first appear in animals tens to hundreds of millions of years before. The first bits of our upper arm and leg are in 380-million-year-old fish like Eusthenopteron. Tiktaalik reveals the early stages in the evolution of our wrist, palm, and finger area. The first true fingers and toes are seen in 365-million-year-old amphibians like Acanthostega. Finally, the full complement of wrist and ankle bones found in a human hand or foot is seen in reptiles more than 250 million years old. The basic skeleton of our hands and feet emerged over hundreds of millions of years, first in fish and later in amphibians and reptiles.”

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay

    A seminal popular science book that talks about the fundamentals of evolutionary development biology by one of the discoverers of the famous Tiktaalik fossil, a key transitional fossil between fish and amphibians. The book goes through the basic body plans of all land vertebrates and their similarities, best explained by a common origin and then proceeds to describe the search for that common origin and the amazing discovery of Tiktaalik. It then goes into various elements of land vertebrate biol A seminal popular science book that talks about the fundamentals of evolutionary development biology by one of the discoverers of the famous Tiktaalik fossil, a key transitional fossil between fish and amphibians. The book goes through the basic body plans of all land vertebrates and their similarities, best explained by a common origin and then proceeds to describe the search for that common origin and the amazing discovery of Tiktaalik. It then goes into various elements of land vertebrate biology and how the development of embryos works with genetic triggers as well as the experimentation on various animal models. We also get descriptions of the origins and structure of the various senses in living creatures from single-celled life forms to much more complex life.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Karl-O

    I knew about this book from Trevor's review some time ago. I saw it in the Bibliography of some of Dawkins' books and it that of Why Evolution is True by Jerry A. Coyne which I recently read, and I got interested to read it very soon. It is truly a remarkable work. If not for anything, just because it shows how evolution can be very helpful in making advances in Medicine. Neil Shubin, who is very well versed in Comparative Anatomy, shows how certain parts of our body can only be understood in li I knew about this book from Trevor's review some time ago. I saw it in the Bibliography of some of Dawkins' books and it that of Why Evolution is True by Jerry A. Coyne which I recently read, and I got interested to read it very soon. It is truly a remarkable work. If not for anything, just because it shows how evolution can be very helpful in making advances in Medicine. Neil Shubin, who is very well versed in Comparative Anatomy, shows how certain parts of our body can only be understood in light of our evolutionary history. It changed how I see myself and Homo Sapiens in great degree. If you want to understand what scientists mean when they say the literally true and beautiful statement "we are all of the same family", then you really need to read this book. One thing I didn't like was that Shubin wasn't consistent in the level of details of his topics. Sometimes, when I wanted to know more about a thing like Embryology, he stopped short and picked up a different topic. He also begins the chapters by telling a personal anecdotal about how he and his colleagues found certain fossils (like the famous Tiktaalik) which was kinda boring for me. But apart from these passages, it was a joy to read. Especially the chapter before the Epilogue called The Meaning of it All. To know how much of our bodies is shared with Sharks, Flies and Tadpoles is truly breathtaking. To know the answers questions such as why we have hiccups, or why the male testes travel to the scrotum, or why we like fatty food is truly mind blowing. It was indeed a remarkable book which I will absolutely recommend to Evolution enthusiasts.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lois Bujold

    I read this a few years back, but was reminded of it by the inclusion of its author and materials on the PBS DVD "What Darwin Never Knew" (2009), which I caught belatedly tonight. Excellent science writing by the actual practitioner -- highly recommended. Shubin describes his search for the fossil fish that represents the first proto-quadrupeds on land; later, the discovery is backed up and deepened by a directed search for the genes and their mechanisms that made the differences. Ta, L.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tanja Berg

    The reason I read this type of book is to learn something new, or preferably, a whole set of new things. The book gets a star deduction for not bringing any novel concepts into my world view. It is however a perfectly readable, concise book which traces our organs back through time and their origins in simpler creatures. A mix of fascinating fact and mindnumbing detail.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mario the lone bookwolf

    Remarkable, from which most different components of other kinds human is composed Please note that I put the original German text at the end of this review. Just if you might be interested. Another big banner for evolutionists' advocates is the fact that Shubin's brilliant work contrasts with the confused theses of the Creationists. The discoverer of a link between land creatures and fish uses numerous examples to show how, in the course of the development of higher life forms, several properties Remarkable, from which most different components of other kinds human is composed Please note that I put the original German text at the end of this review. Just if you might be interested. Another big banner for evolutionists' advocates is the fact that Shubin's brilliant work contrasts with the confused theses of the Creationists. The discoverer of a link between land creatures and fish uses numerous examples to show how, in the course of the development of higher life forms, several properties, and physiological peculiarities could last even into humans. Where appropriate for fish, reptiles or birds meaningful and advantageous specializations can take their revenge in a primate body. Thus, there are various Achilles vision and design errors. Such as the tendency to intestinal rupture and hiccups, the poorly designed pathways of some nerves, and some non-optimized constructions in the human body. Many civilization diseases are caused by the manifold influences of hundreds of millions of years, in which unfortunately sometimes not always useful gifts of mostly extinct ancestors lurk. The illustrations and drawings, which depict the development of the specialization of an initially utterly different kind in their course up to the final placement in the human being, apparently illustrate this extraordinary variety of passing the time. Whereby in some of the representations, one or the other eye rubbing may be necessary. To allow the derivation, which one would never have come of its own accord, as a fact to take on itself. It turns out, how about almost immeasurably many modifications abilities from entirely different living environments are adapted to the particular conditions, which correspond optimally to the current needs of the "gene host" (own creation). The objects of observation are insects, fish, reptiles, and worms whose various body parts such as eyes, bones, internal organs, teeth, and gills are represented in their metamorphosis as components of other forms of life. The research and theses are based on genetic analyzes, fossils, and studies of embryonic development. Especially with the latter, as every expectant parent knows to report, we can point to our cross-species gene pool in an impressive way that lets us stand in awe of the genius of nature. Thus, the human inner ear was formed from the lateral organs of the fish, the ear ossicles from jar bones and the mitochondria from unicellular bacteria. In particular, the micro-level, including viruses and bacteria, in which the first primitive life forms emerged, holds in other respects even more unexplored, exciting insights. Because the tiny life forms were not only the basis of all life but also increased a lot later with a lasting effect on the design of the ecosphere. The extent to which many of our bodily functions, DNA, metabolism, and heredity have been influenced and modified by bacteria and viruses is challenging to assess seriously from the current state of research, which is in its infancy. There are many theories in this regard and only rare, contentious evidence. For future generations of scientists, this represents a license to enter a new world of research. In contrast to now, where paleontologists of the 21st and 22nd century can only demonstrate a connection through visible traces of primeval ancestors that can be traced back to the skeleton or organs. In the 20th century, an alliance was formed with biologists and biochemists. Also, in its wake, much more impressive details, not just how individual fragments of our physique were created, will come to light. However, up to individual cells and their modes of functioning, an endlessly branched pedigree will open, at the temporary end of which human stands. Bemerkenswert, aus welch verschiedensten Komponenten anderer Arten sich der Mensch zusammensetzt Ein großes weiteres Banner für das Bestreben der Befürworter der Evolution ist es, das Shubin mit seinem brillanten Werk vor die wirren Thesen der Kreationisten stellt. Der Entdecker eines Bindeglieds zwischen Landlebewesen und Fisch belegt anhand zahlreicher Beispiele, wie im Zuge der Entwicklung höherer Lebensformen etliche Eigenschaften und physiologische Besonderheiten bis in den Menschen überdauern konnten. Wobei für Fische, Reptilien oder Vögel sinnvolle und vorteilhafte Spezialisierungen sich in einem Primatenkörper durchaus rächen können. So gibt es dadurch bedingt diverse Achillessehen und Konstruktionsfehler. Wie die Tendenz zu Eingeweidebrüchen und Schluckauf, die schlecht konzipierten Bahnen einiger Nerven und generell einige nicht optimiert scheinende Konstruktionen im menschlichen Körper. Viele Zivilisationskrankheiten sind bedingt durch die vielfältigen Einflüsse hunderter Jahrmillionen, in denen leider mitunter nicht immer nützliche Geschenke größtenteils ausgestorbener Urahnen lauern. Die Illustrationen und Zeichnungen, anhand derer die Entwicklung der Spezialisierung einer ursprünglich ganz anderen Art in ihrem Verlauf bis zur finalen Platzierung im Menschen aufgezeichnet wird, verdeutlichen diese wundersame Spielart der vergehenden Zeit auf anschauliche Weise. Wobei bei einigen der Darstellungen schon das eine oder andere Augenreiben vonnöten sein kann. Um die Herleitung, auf die man von selbst niemals gekommen wäre, als Fakt auf sich wirken zu lassen. Es zeigt sich, wie über schier unermesslich viele Modifikationen Fähigkeiten aus komplett differenten Lebensumgebungen an die speziellen, den momentanen Bedürfnissen des „Genwirts“ (Eigenkreation) optimal entsprechenden, Gegebenheiten angepasst werden. Als Anschauungsobjekte dienen Insekten, Fische, Reptilien und Würmer, deren verschiedenste Körperteile wie Augen, Knochen, innere Organe, Zähne und Kiemen in ihrer Metamorphose zu Komponenten anderer Lebensformen dargestellt wird. Die Forschungs- und Thesengrundlage bilden genetische Analysen, Fossilien sowie Studien der Embryonalentwicklung. Speziell mit letzterer lässt sich, wie jedes werdende Elternteil zu berichten weiß, auf atemberaubende und vor der Genialität der Natur in Ehrfurcht erstarren lassender Weise, unser artübergreifender Genpool darstellen. So entstand aus den Seitenlinienorganen der Fische das menschliche Innenohr, aus Kieferknochen Gehörknöchelchen und aus einzelligen Bakterien die Mitochondrien. Speziell die Mikroebene samt Viren und Bakterien, in der die ersten primitiven Lebensformen entstanden, birgt in anderer Hinsicht noch mehr bisher unerforschte, spannende Erkenntnisse. Denn die winzigen Lebensformen waren nicht nur die Grundlage alles Lebens, sondern stiegen auch viel später ein weiteres Mal mit nachhaltiger Wirkung in die Gestaltung der Ökosphäre ein. Wie weit viele unserer körperlichen Funktionsweisen, DNA, Stoffwechsel und Vererbung von Bakterien und Viren beeinflusst und modifiziert wurden, lässt sich vom momentanen, in den Kinderschuhen steckenden, Stand der Forschung aus betrachtet schwer seriös einschätzen. Es gibt diesbezüglich viele Theorien und nur rare, strittige Beweise. Das stellt für kommende Generationen von Wissenschaftlern einen Freibrief für den Eintritt in eine neue Welt der Forschung dar. Denn wo jetzt größtenteils nur anhand offensichtlicher, an Skelett oder Organen nachweisbaren Spuren urzeitlicher Ahnen eine Verbindung bewiesen werden kann, wird den Paläontologen des 21. und 22. Jahrhunderts eine Allianz mit Biologen und Biochemikern beschieden sein. Und in dessen Gefolge werden noch wesentlich beeindruckendere Details, nicht nur darüber wie einzelne Fragmente unserer Physis erschaffen wurden, ans Tageslicht kommen. Sondern bis zu einzelnen Zellen und deren Funktionsweisen hin wird sich ein endlos verzweigter Stammbaum auftun, an dessen vorläufigen Ende der Mensch steht.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ram

    Anatomist Neil Shubin shows us in this book how our body evolved into the amazing and complicated machine it is. Using fossils, genes and embryos, we are introduced to the origin of our body parts and systems tracing them back to ancient fish, reptiles and primates. The book is easy to read and provides adequate explanations that are both interesting and understandable. I found the book fascinating and easy to read, and not too long.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Clif

    When I was a kid, I loved to read the non-fiction books of Issac Asimov. I was fascinated by how things worked, be they natural of something man-made and Asimov wrote to inform the layman like me of the wonders of everything from physics to biology (and even the Bible). Once I worked as a lowly night janitor in a Bell Telephone office. I couldn't wait for my lunch hour to run to the basement, pull up a chair and dig into what Asimov had to say on the structure of the atom and how electricity worke When I was a kid, I loved to read the non-fiction books of Issac Asimov. I was fascinated by how things worked, be they natural of something man-made and Asimov wrote to inform the layman like me of the wonders of everything from physics to biology (and even the Bible). Once I worked as a lowly night janitor in a Bell Telephone office. I couldn't wait for my lunch hour to run to the basement, pull up a chair and dig into what Asimov had to say on the structure of the atom and how electricity worked. It wasn't hard for him to come up with whole chapters on fairly narrow topics so there was plenty of reading to keep me busy. So what does this have to do with Neil Shubin's book? Shubin has not just matched the quality of Asimov's writing, he has surpassed it by being able to cover the most basic, yet captivating ideas in a minimum of words while leaving the reader fully satisfied that real understanding has been gained. Your Inner Fish should be read by everyone because it asks and answers so many questions we have about our favorite topic - ourselves. How did we get to be the way we are? How did eyes and ears and arms and heads and jaws come about? How is it possible that we are related to other animals as lowly as a jellyfish? How come all of life isn't still the bacteria that has been around for hundreds of millions of years - in other words, how is it that multi-celled and multi-structured bodies came about? Well, aren't you interested? Shubin talks of the clues found in fossils and DNA with a simplicity that makes this book a snap to read, but accompanies it with beautiful drawings that illustrate his points. I don't believe anyone can get through this book without saying "wow, no kidding!" at least half a dozen times. A central theme of science in the last century has been the confirmation of kinship in all life and the leveling of humanity from the once separate and superior species to just another form of animal that shares almost every feature with at least one other species and often several. After getting over the dazzling picture men held of themselves (even women were a lesser breed!), we are finally learning the fascinating truths of evolution, "descent with modification" as Darwin put it. Not only has this opening up of our mental picture of the natural world brought better self-understanding, it has brought greater appreciation for all our relatives on Earth that, though they may look entirely different than we do, are our companions in ways never before realized. Shubin ties it all together in a simple but powerful way. Your Inner Fish is a tiny masterpiece.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mark Longo

    As a biologist I'm often amazed and dismayed when people talk about history and limit their thoughts to just the past few hundred or thousand or even hundred thousand years. There are living trees as old as human civilization. American history represents 1 ten-millionth of the history of life on earth. And the thing is, that entire timeline of life on earth matters. We were not human for much, much longer than we've been human and all that history is still inside us, affecting us in innumerable As a biologist I'm often amazed and dismayed when people talk about history and limit their thoughts to just the past few hundred or thousand or even hundred thousand years. There are living trees as old as human civilization. American history represents 1 ten-millionth of the history of life on earth. And the thing is, that entire timeline of life on earth matters. We were not human for much, much longer than we've been human and all that history is still inside us, affecting us in innumerable ways. This book does a beautiful job expanding our perspective of who we are by putting our bodies into historical context. In the process, it shows us just how deeply connected all life is (after all, if we go back long enough, we find common ancestors between us and the trees outside). And of course, although Shubin doesn't discuss it too much, our minds were shaped by similar processes. It's a fascinating ride. While Shubin is a good writer, his prose doesn't reach the levels of eloquence of natural history masters like Stephen Jay Gould. Hence I'm withholding one star, but this is still a fine book and well worth reading.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kay

    I feel bad not giving this book a higher rating. Heaven knows we can use more books that explain complex scientific material to the general public. Gifted writers such as Jonathan Weiner ( The Beak of the Finch ), David Quammen (The Flight of the Iguana), and Gilbert Waldbauer (Insects through the Seasons) have expanded my own intellectual horizons considerably, simultaneously educating and entertaining. Alas, I can’t in good conscience place Neil Shubin’s book in the same league. It read more I feel bad not giving this book a higher rating. Heaven knows we can use more books that explain complex scientific material to the general public. Gifted writers such as Jonathan Weiner ( The Beak of the Finch ), David Quammen (The Flight of the Iguana), and Gilbert Waldbauer (Insects through the Seasons) have expanded my own intellectual horizons considerably, simultaneously educating and entertaining. Alas, I can’t in good conscience place Neil Shubin’s book in the same league. It read more like a dumb downed college lecture than the stimulating exploration of evolutionary biology that I had hoped it would be. I fully confess to stylistic prejudices here. I’ve never been a fan of stripped-down easy-to-read prose. Shubin writes as if he’s patiently addressing a talented group of middle school students. He even employs the textbook writer’s device of summarizing a chapter at its end. (I half expected a set of “comprehension questions” to follow.) There are heavy-handed attempts at humor, too, as evidenced in the pun-heavy chapter headings such as “Getting Ahead” for a chapter on the organization of the head. Sometime clumsy analogies are used in an attempt to make things clearer, such as the history of organs compared to a Chevy Corvette. While these might indeed be successful strategies for reaching some audiences, I found them a little uninspired. Shubin is probably a gifted lecturer, but he comes across as just that: a lecturer. It probably didn’t help that I’d recently read Jonathan Weiner’s Time, Love, and Memory, which went over some of the same ground but far more eloquently. Or that I’m married to a scientist whose hobby is collecting fossils. Or that I worked for years in academic settings with molecular biologists, immunologists, and various medical researchers. Thus, many of the ideas in this book were already familiar. However, I did like the clear use of illustrations to demonstrate key concepts, and I found in general that the book improved as it progressed. Truth to tell, I was about to set it aside after the opening chapters, which seemed overly simple and too laden with personal anecdotes, but I was curious as to why my sister had thought so highly of the book, so I persisted. After the first few chapters, the book picked up pace, with plenty of quirky details about how the human body contains relics of earlier evolutionary forms. The chapter on the ear, for example, revealed how ‘repurposing’ bones originally used by reptiles to chew evolved later in mammals to be ones used in hearing. Likewise chapters on the sense of smell, eyes, and teeth contain interesting information on how these attributes and structures evolved in other and earlier organisms. As Shubin notes, the book could have equally been called Your Inner Fly or Your Inner Worm as the main message that a ‘pattern of descent with modification’ defines us. I think, in fact, that Shubin’s book probably accomplished its aim as an introduction to key concepts in evolutionary biology. I may be remiss in having expected a little more than that. Judging by the reviews here and elsewhere, it seems to have generated a lot of enthusiasm.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kam Yung Soh

    A fascinating book to read to learn about how life on earth is related to each other for one simple reason: we are all descended from one common ancestor. Changes may have occurred as all life on Earth branched out from that common ancestor but you can still trace that common lineage between us all; even between humans and fish. Shubin is best known for discovering Tiktaalik but he uses his other experiences (searching for other fossils, teaching human anatomy, running a lab that explores both pa A fascinating book to read to learn about how life on earth is related to each other for one simple reason: we are all descended from one common ancestor. Changes may have occurred as all life on Earth branched out from that common ancestor but you can still trace that common lineage between us all; even between humans and fish. Shubin is best known for discovering Tiktaalik but he uses his other experiences (searching for other fossils, teaching human anatomy, running a lab that explores both palaeontology and genetics) to help guide the reader as he shows the various ways we are connected to various life forms on Earth: to fish via our hands and arms, to amphibians via the way our heads and faces developed, to reptiles via the way reptile jaw bones became parts of our inner ear and to mammals via the way our teeth develop. He sums it up by showing that evolution can only work with what it has, explaining why some parts of our body seems to have developed in a haphazard way. The obvious answer is because our original body plan started out as fish and as we developed, parts of us get moved about, leading to all sorts of strange routes taken by our body parts as they moved from the original fish-related positions to where they are now. He also shows that some of the problems that ails us are due to this fish to human way to development. Probably the most unexpected is the reason we hiccup; it was a response originally required by tadpoles to help breathing but is now a relic response that causes hiccups. It is such insights and others in the book that make you understand just how we are all connected to one another and to all life on earth. And you will definitely learn to appreciate your inner fish.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Victor Sonkin

    This is a book about your (our, my) inner fish — the evolutionary legacy of all creatures great and small in our bodies. The author brilliantly saddles the seemingly unbridgeable divide between field biology (paleontology, in his case, but of the most hardcore type, working for seasons on end in Arctic sleet or desert sands) and molecular biology; he is clever enough to point out that recent enthusiasm for all things molbio which were supposed to completely displace field disciplines was prematu This is a book about your (our, my) inner fish — the evolutionary legacy of all creatures great and small in our bodies. The author brilliantly saddles the seemingly unbridgeable divide between field biology (paleontology, in his case, but of the most hardcore type, working for seasons on end in Arctic sleet or desert sands) and molecular biology; he is clever enough to point out that recent enthusiasm for all things molbio which were supposed to completely displace field disciplines was premature and misplaced. There is a problem with this dual narrative, because the book lacks a single, well-focused, energetic plot (I do realize that asking for a plot in biological nonfiction is a stretch, but all the best books have it). As a result, the central point (about the fish, or tadpole, or fruit fly that lives inside of all of us) is sometimes muddled. But it is never lost completely, and some of the discoveries that I made while reading Shubin were truly amazing. For example, I never realized that the effects of alcohol-induced spinning (and subsequent hangover) were physically connected with alcohol diluting blood and penetrating the inner ear with its viscous liquid — a process that disorientates the villi and makes one's head spin. The fact that ear bones are descended from large jaw bones in reptiles is also fun, and some of the vision facts, too. As for evo-devo, most of that I knew from other books. But the Tiktaalik saga, and in general the story of looking for fossils, though, strictly speaking, not immediately relevant, reads as a mystery novella in its own right. Overall, very good.

  29. 5 out of 5

    David

    There are plenty of people writing reviews about this book detailing examples of what is covered in the book, but if you are on the fence about reading it, here is what the book offers: a basic overview of phylogenetics (specifically cladistics, which tries to use novel features to determine how species are related to each other), the natural history of several important innovations in the evolution of the body plan we share with other land-based vertebrates (birds, fish, mammals), and insight i There are plenty of people writing reviews about this book detailing examples of what is covered in the book, but if you are on the fence about reading it, here is what the book offers: a basic overview of phylogenetics (specifically cladistics, which tries to use novel features to determine how species are related to each other), the natural history of several important innovations in the evolution of the body plan we share with other land-based vertebrates (birds, fish, mammals), and insight into how science (especially involving the study of evolution) works from the start of an idea through the research process itself. If you are a professional investigator or student of evolution, the specific discoveries will not be breaking news, yet the journey and passion will still hold an appeal. If you want to learn more about how scientists are studying evolution and what it means for how our bodies are put together, this an excellent place to start or a next step in expanding your knowledge. This is the kind of book you can give someone who is eight grade through their senior year of college and potentially inspire them to seek a career in research or seek additional education. It's also great for teachers introducing students paleontology, evolution, or science in general.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tom Meyer

    If Richard Dawkins attacks Creationism with rhetorical broadsides, Shubin does it with a carefully-aimed silenced rifle; less dramatic, but far more effective and humane. Unless I missed something, I don't think Shubin uses the word "evolution" anywhere in the book. But he presumes Common Descent and -- without the reader having to be consciously aware of this -- causes the reader to presume it as well. He or she has to for the book to make any sense. Indeed, until the final chapter, I don't thin If Richard Dawkins attacks Creationism with rhetorical broadsides, Shubin does it with a carefully-aimed silenced rifle; less dramatic, but far more effective and humane. Unless I missed something, I don't think Shubin uses the word "evolution" anywhere in the book. But he presumes Common Descent and -- without the reader having to be consciously aware of this -- causes the reader to presume it as well. He or she has to for the book to make any sense. Indeed, until the final chapter, I don't think the average reader even needs to think that this book has anything in particular to do with Evolution in the politicized sense and Shubin's such a likable guy that a mild Creationist might not even know to have his guard up. Otherwise, the book is delightful; Shubin's got a light touch, a gift for explanation, and an eye for finding the right examples that make for an excellent pop-bio book that's accessible and interesting to a wide audience. Highly recommend.

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