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Hardcover Remarkable Creatures: Epic Adventures in the Search for the Origin of Species Book

ISBN: 015101485X

ISBN13: 9780151014859

Remarkable Creatures: Epic Adventures in the Search for the Origin of Species

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Book Overview

An award-winning biologist takes us on the dramatic expeditions that unearthed the history of life on our planet. Just 150 years ago, most of our world was an unexplored wilderness. Our sense of its age was vague and vastly off the mark, and much of the knowledge of our own species' history was a set of fantastic myths and fairy tales. In the tradition of The Microbe Hunters and Gods , Graves , and Scholars , Sean Carroll leads a rousing voyage that...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Science - really relaxed.

The most remarkable thing about Remarkable Creatures is that Carroll's book is so easy and enjoyable to read. To a scientist there are no new facts or theories to learn here, just stuff we've already learned--now learned better as really good yarns well selected, well told, and woven together around the compelling theme and endless plot known as life. Sean Carroll's perspective and his smooth prose style make this popularization an easy yet rewarding book. Additionally, the aphorisms and epigrams are sharply chosen, and the illustrations are tightly illustrative of the text. The "Sources and Further Reading" are a bonus, particularly the Websites and Sources of Quotes, softening the regret at having reached "the last of these stories" after so few enjoyable days. I found no Typos and no reason to challenge the fact-checkers at the new HMH. This book hits its target, and in Dr. Carroll's case it seems Mr. Hughes' tax shelter dollars also found a worthy target. If the next few Darwin bicentennial offerings are even close to this standard, there'll be good reading ahead. Make reading Remarkable Creatures part of your search for the origins of species. You will enjoy it.

A fantastic book of adventures and science

I'll try leave the trite evolution vs. creation vs. alien debate elsewhere, and focus on what this book is all about: The STORY of how our science(s) have come to be; our understanding of ourselves, and of our past, which still is not complete, and may very well never be complete. And what a fantastic adventure it is. The author has a special ability to mix science with a compelling narrative to keep that keeps the level of interest high. Each character (past scientists) are given their own stories, accompanied by their own struggles, beliefs (right or wrong), methodologies, and findings. Building upon one another, as the adventures of these "remarkable creatures" (human beings and the scientists themselves), the story flows well through the times and advanced in sciences to almost be something out of a movie, with each successive scientist receiving the baton of knowledge to further the knowledge... except, these stories are not only entertaining, but true. Regardless whether your beliefs are that your god (whichever one you picked) created everything, or that we evolved from some kind of soupy glop (against highly improbably odds), or that we're the offspring of extraterrestrial bacteria that was seeded (intentionally or not), this book is an incredible read, and whose facts are nary debatable. Certainly the best book I've read in a long while, and one that is really worth of 5 stars - EXCELLENT. Would highly recommend. Storytelling at it's finest: Stories of the scientists whom are sorting out the stories of our ancient past.

Champions of natural history

This book chronicles the adventures of some of the great paleontologists, evolutionists, and molecular biologists in search for the origin of species. The book is described in three major parts; the first part focuses on the origin of species in general; the second part on particular kinds of animals; and finally the origins of human beings. In part one, the epic voyage of Charles Darwin, Alfred Wallace, and Henry Bates who laid foundations for the theory of natural selection and origin of species is vividly explained with the drama, tragedy and adventurism encountered during their long voyages into the far corners of planet. The second part describes the major expeditions for hunting fossils, and spectacular finds in paleontology that sheds light on the evolution of animal species. The last part dealing with natural history of human beings, track discoveries from the archeological, paleontological, and genetic studies that shed much light on the evolution of man. For a general reader this part is perhaps most interesting and especially chapter 13 entitled "Neander Valley" which examines if Neanderthals and humans have any biological connection; the discussion analyses very latest results from archeological, genetic and fossil studies. It is an exciting chapter to read. There are interesting facts to be found in the book; when Darwin arrived in Galapagos Island his personal diary indicate he was unimpressed by the island. Alfred Wallace, another evolutionist who worked at the same time as Darwin made original contributions to the early ideas of natural selection. Henry Bates who had special fascination for butterflies studied adaptation in predator-prey relationship. He found that species of moths and butterflies imitate in certain ways that the predator avoids them. For example a large caterpillar raises its head like a poisonous snake to scare off the predator. It also had black dots and segments to give the appearance of snake. He also found that some parasitic bees and flies mimic the forms of nest-building bees and live in their nests "all expenses paid." Recently it has been demonstrated in the case of harmless scarlet king snake which is adapted to look like the poisonous coral snake (Chapter 4). The year 2009 marks the birthday of Charles Darwin and this discussion is a celebration of the ideas and achievements of the greatest naturalist and leader of a scientific revolution. This book is highly recommended. 1. The Origin Of Species: 150th Anniversary Edition 2. Microbe Hunters 3. Gods, Graves & Scholars: The Story of Archaeology 4. Into The Jungle: Great Adventures in the Search for Evolution 5. The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution 6. The Meaning of Evolution: A Study of the History of Life and of Its Significance for Man, Revised Edition (The Terry Lectures Series)

An Excellent Summary of How We Know What We Know

"Remarkable Creatures: Epic Adventures in the Search for the Origins of Species" deserves to be widely read, especially by those unfamiliar with how we gained our current knowledge about the world and our place in it. Unfortunately, those who stand to gain the most from reading it will probably avoid it like the plague because--GASP!--it's about EVOLUTION! At a time when the battle between science and superstition continues to rage in America's courts and classrooms, "Remarkable Creatures" offers an excellent survey, in a most entertaining and enlightening way, of some of the key scientific discoveries in the last 200 years that shaped our understanding of the history of life on earth. It is an interesting blend of adventure stories and detective mysteries that examines the lives of some of the past and present-day scientists and explorers who came up with "paradigm shifts" that shook conventional wisdom to its very foundations. The first three chapters of "Remarkable Creatures" tell the stories of Charles Darwin, Alfred Wallace and Henry Walter Bates. On epic sea voyages and dangerous wilderness expeditions in the 1800s, these men collectively gathered overwhelming evidence to support the then-heretical ideas of evolution, natural selection and "survival of the fittest." The scope, elegance and impact of their work, which shocked their contemporaries and profoundly changed the face of scientific inquiry forever, are still amazing to consider even today. Next are six chapters telling the stories of paleontologists who, through tireless efforts under the most primitive field conditions in remote regions of the earth, deciphered the long natural history of life before man. For example, in the early 1900s, Charles Doolittle Walcott found fossils in the Burgess Shale beds in the Canadian Rockies that recorded the "Cambrian Explosion"--an unprecedented increase in the number and complexity of marine animals over a very short period of geologic time. Roy Chapman Andrews ventured into Mongolia's forbidding Gobi Desert in the 1920s, searching for evidence of ancient humans. Instead, in the shadows of the Flaming Cliffs, he discovered a treasure trove of dinosaur and mammal fossils, including the first dinosaur eggs ever found. The chapter "The Day the Mesozoic Died" is a true detective story in the best tradition of the genre. While studying fossilized single-celled sea creatures in the early 1970s, Walter Alvarez became curious about a half-inch-thick layer of clay that he found in a limestone outcropping in Italy. Little did he know that his investigation of this mysterious layer would, years later, lead to the irrefutable conclusion that a giant asteroid had smashed into the earth 65 million years ago. This cataclysmic event darkened the skies for thousands of years and doomed more than 80 per cent of the species existing at the time to extinction. Mr. Carroll's summary of the unraveling of that complex global mystery is one of the best I've read.

Star Players in the Study of Evolution

Sean Carroll has written another winner, sure to sharpen the scientific literacy of its readers. This one is not as technical as Carroll's other books. It is a series of mini-biographies of scientists who contributed evidence to and refined the theory of evolution - starting with Humboldt, who inspired Darwin. Much of the time, enough background information is given to link their childhood obsessions to their life's work. One of them has had hundreds of books written about him - Charles Darwin. Although none of the others were as famous as Darwin, they appear to have worked with the same vision and determination and most were famous during their time. In every case possible, Carroll uses original field notes and original scientific articles written by his subjects - if not personal interviews. Carroll follows Humboldt, Darwin, Wallace, and Bates on their individual voyages of discovery. They were all subjected to the dangers of ocean travel, wild animals, tropical disease, tribal people, and a primitive lifestyle. He takes us along with Dubois, who found the first primitive human remains in Java - Java Man. We meet the diplomatic Charles Wolcott who excavated the Grande Canyon for the United States. He was responsible for one of the most important mother lodes of fossils ever found - the Burgess Shale - and its treasures involving the Cambrian explosion. We go with the pistol-toting Roy Chapman Andrew to Mongolia and find the first dinosaur eggs. Scared to death of snakes, Chapman is said to have inspired the George Lucas's character, Indiana Jones. Father and son Alvarez follow their curiosity about a strange archeological layer found around the world at the 68 million years ago mark. The layer never has fossils in it, but lots of iridium. This clue led them to the now generally accepted theory that a meteor hit the Yucatan Peninsula, led to the extinction of dinosaurs, thereby opening a niche for mammals. John Ostrum discovered the most important dinosaur fossil in the twentieth century in Wyoming in 1964, linking dinosaurs to birds. The last time that happened was with Archeopteryx in 1861 but the link was questioned until Ostrum discovered Deinonychus. Michael Crichton modeled his Raptors after Deinonychus in Jurassic Park. The story of Tiktaalik is about using educated guesses to decide where to look for fossils. Neil Shubin expected a transitional species linking fish to amphibians to live some 375 million years ago and the fossils would be found on the banks of stream deltas. A geology text sent him and his crew to the Canadian Arctic Islands, where he found his prize in 2004. "Arriving in the midst of yet another wave of the long-running creationist battle against evolution, the creature that was so obviously transitional between fish and land animals was a most welcome and potent blow to the skeptic's rhetoric about the purposed lack of transitional forms in the fossil record." Louis and Mary Leakey an
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