An award-wining 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 how old it was? Vague and vastly off the mark. And our sense of our own species history? A set of fantastic myths and fairy tales. Fossils had been known for millennia, but they were seen as the bones of dragons and other imagined creatures. In the tradition of The Microbe Hunters and Gods, Graves, and Scholars, Sean Carroll s Remarkable Creatures celebrates the pioneers who replaced our fancies with the even more amazing true story of how our world evolved. Carroll recounts the most important discoveries in two centuries of national history from Darwin s trip around the world to CharlesWalcott s discovery of pre-Cambrian life in the Grand Canyon; from Louis and Mary Leakey s investigation of our deepest past in East Africa to the trailblazers in modern laboratories who have located a time clock in our DNA. Join him in a rousing voyage of discovery, from the epic journeys of pioneering naturalists to the breakthroughs making headlines today.
It's unclear whether the title refers to the daring naturalist/explorers Carroll depicts or the creatures whose remains they found. In this thoroughly enjoyable book, Carroll (Endless Forms Most Beautiful), a molecular biologist at the University of Wisconsin, provides vignettes of some of the fascinating people who have made the most significant discoveries in evolutionary biology. He starts with some of the experiences and insights of great explorers like Alexander von Humboldt, Charles Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace and Henry Walter Bates, then turns his attention to paleontologists who searched for the fossil evidence to support the new theory of evolution. Among them are Eugène Dubois's discovery of Java Man; Charles Walcott's discovery of the Burgess Shale and the evidence it provided for the Cambrian explosion; and Neil Shubin's recent discovery in arctic Canada of Tiktaalik, the intermediary "between water- and land-dwelling vertebrates." Carroll closes with studies of human evolution, from Louis and Mary Leakey to the advances of Linus Pauling and Allan Wilson, which indicated that Neanderthals were cousins of Homo sapiens rather than direct ancestors. While there's little that's new here, Carroll does weave an arresting tapestry of evolutionary advancement. Photos, maps. (Feb. 10)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.