Book picks similar to
The Story of Evolution in 25 Discoveries: The Evidence and the People Who Found It by Donald R. Prothero
Symphony in C: Carbon and the Evolution of (Almost) Everything
Robert M. Hazen - 2019
It’s in the fibers in your hair, the timbers in your walls, the food that you eat, and the air that you breathe. It’s worth billions as a luxury and half a trillion as a necessity, but there are still mysteries yet to be solved about the element that can be both diamond and coal. Where does it come from, what does it do, and why, above all, does life need it?With poetic storytelling, earth scientist Robert Hazen leads us on a global journey through the origin and evolution of life’s most ubiquitous element. The story unfolds in four movements—Earth, Air, Fire, and Water—and transports us through 14 billion years of cosmic history.From the archives of Harvard to the cliffs of Scotland and into the preciousmetal mines of Namibia, Symphony in C is a sweeping chronicle of carbon: the most essential element on Earth.
Tamed: Ten Species That Changed Our World
Alice Roberts - 2017
They were hunter-gatherers, consummate foraging experts, but taking the world as they found it. Then a revolution occurred – our ancestors’ interaction with other species changed. They began to tame them. The human population boomed; civilization began.In her new book, Tamed, Alice Roberts uncovers the amazing deep history of ten familiar species with incredible wild pasts: dogs, apples and wheat; cattle; potatoes and chickens; rice, maize, and horses – and, finally, humans. Alice Roberts not only reveals how becoming part of our world changed these animals and plants, but shows how they became our allies, essential to the survival and success of our own species – and to our future.Enlightening, wide-ranging and endlessly fascinating, Tamed is an epic story, encompassing hundreds of thousands of years of history and archaeology alongside cutting-edge genetics and anthropology. Yet it is also a deeply personal journey that will change how we see ourselves and the species on which we have left our mark.
Venomous: How Earth's Deadliest Creatures Mastered Biochemistry
Christie Wilcox - 2016
Humans have feared them for centuries, long considering them the assassins and pariahs of the natural world.Now, in Venomous, the biologist Christie Wilcox investigates and illuminates the animals of our nightmares, arguing that they hold the keys to a deeper understanding of evolution, adaptation, and immunity. She reveals just how venoms function and what they do to the human body. With Wilcox as our guide, we encounter a jellyfish with tentacles covered in stinging cells that can kill humans in minutes; a two-inch caterpillar with toxic bristles that trigger hemorrhaging; and a stunning blue-ringed octopus capable of inducing total paralysis. How do these animals go about their deadly work? How did they develop such intricate, potent toxins? Wilcox takes us around the world and down to the cellular level to find out.Throughout her journey, Wilcox meets the intrepid scientists who risk their lives studying these lethal beasts, as well as “self-immunizers” who deliberately expose themselves to snakebites. Along the way, she puts her own life on the line, narrowly avoiding being envenomated herself. Drawing on her own research, Wilcox explains how venom scientists are untangling the mechanisms of some of our most devastating diseases, and reports on pharmacologists who are already exploiting venoms to produce lifesaving drugs. We discover that venomous creatures are in fact keystone species that play crucial roles in their ecosystems and ours—and for this alone, they ought to be protected and appreciated.Thrilling and surprising at every turn, Venomous will change everything you thought you knew about the planet’s most dangerous animals.
Never Home Alone: From Microbes to Millipedes, Camel Crickets, and Honeybees, the Natural History of Where We Live
Rob Dunn - 2018
In Never Home Alone, biologist Rob Dunn introduces us to the nearly 200,000 species living with us in our own homes, from the Egyptian meal moths in our cupboards and camel crickets in our basements to the lactobacillus lounging on our kitchen counters. You are not alone. Yet, as we obsess over sterilizing our homes and separating our spaces from nature, we are unwittingly cultivating an entirely new playground for evolution. These changes are reshaping the organisms that live with us -- prompting some to become more dangerous, while undermining those species that benefit our bodies or help us keep more threatening organisms at bay. No one who reads this engrossing, revelatory book will look at their homes in the same way again.
Some Assembly Required: Decoding Four Billion Years of Life, from Ancient Fossils to DNA
Neil Shubin - 2020
Shubin describes how over the last half-century, scientists have been able to explore how genetic recipes build bodies during embryological development--how these inventions and adaptations occur in a nonprogressive manner in different contexts, at different speeds. Paleontology has been transformed over the last 50 years by tools and techniques of molecular biology--and it is that revolution in our understanding of the evolution of life that Shubin traces here. Each of us is a mosaic of precursors that came about at different times and places, with deep rooted connections across species that Darwin, for all he understood, could never even have imagined.
Through a Window: My Thirty Years with the Chimpanzees of Gombe
Jane Goodall - 1990
It reads like a novel, but it is one of the most important scientific works ever published. The community is Gombe, on the shores of Lake Tangganyika, where the principal residents are chimpanzees and one extraordinary woman who is their student, protector, and historian. In her classic In the Shadow of Man, Jane Goodall wrote of her first ten years at Gombe. In Through a Window she brings the story up to the present, painting a much more complete and vivid portrait of our closest relative. We see the community split in two and a brutal war break out. We watch young Figan's relentless rise to power and old Mike's crushing defeat. We learn how one mother rears her children to succeed and another dooms them to failure. We witness horrifying murders, touching moments of affection, joyous births, and wrenching deaths. In short, we see every emotion known to humans stripped to its essence. In the mirror of chimpanzee life, we see ourselves reflected. Perhaps the best book ever written about animal behavior, Through a Window is also essential reading for anyone seeking a better grasp of human behavior.
Zoobiquity: The Astonishing Connection Between Human and Animal Health
Barbara Natterson-Horowitz - 2012
Beginning with the above questions, she began informally researching every affliction that she encountered in humans to learn whether it happened with animals, too. And usually, it did: dinosaurs suffered from brain cancer, koalas can catch chlamydia, reindeer seek narcotic escape in hallucinogenic mushrooms, stallions self-mutilate, and gorillas experience clinical depression. Natterson-Horowitz and science writer Kathryn Bowers have dubbed this pan-species approach to medicine zoobiquity. Here, they present a revelatory understanding of what animals can teach us about the human body and mind, exploring how animal and human commonality can be used to diagnose, treat, and heal patients of all species.
Life's Edge: The Search for What It Means to Be Alive
Carl Zimmer - 2021
Is the apple sitting on your kitchen counter alive, or is only the apple tree it came from deserving of the word? If we can't answer that question here on earth, how will we know when and if we discover alien life on other worlds? The question hangs over some of society's most charged conflicts--whether a fertilized egg is a living person, for example, and when we ought to declare a person legally dead.Charting the obsession with Dr. Frankenstein's monster and how Coleridge came to believe the whole universe was alive, Zimmer leads us all the way into the labs and minds of researchers working on engineering life from the ground up.
A New History of Life: The Radical New Discoveries about the Origins and Evolution of Life on Earth
Peter D. Ward - 2015
In fact the currently accepted history of life on Earth is flawed and out of date. Now two pioneering scientists, one already an award-winning popular author, deliver an eye-opening narrative that synthesizes a generation's worth of insights from new research.Writing with zest, humor, and clarity, Ward and Kirschvink show that many of our long-held beliefs about the history of life are wrong. Three central themes emerge from the narrative. First, the development of life was not a stately, gradual process: Catastrophe, argue Ward and Kirschvink, shaped life's history more than all other forces combined-from notorious events like the sudden extinction of dinosaurs to recently discovered ones like "Snowball Earth" and the "Great Oxygenation Event." One startling possibility: that life arrived on Earth from Mars. Second, life consists of carbon, but three other molecules have determined how it evolved: oxygen, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen sulfide are carbon's silent partners. Third, ever since Darwin we have thought of evolution in terms of species. Yet it is the evolution of ecosystems-from deep-ocean vents to rainforests-that has formed the living world as we know it.Drawing on their years of experience in paleontology, biology, chemistry, and astrobiology, Ward and Kirschvink tell a story of life on Earth that is at once too fabulous to imagine and too familiar to dismiss. And in a provocative coda, they assemble discoveries from the latest cutting-edge research to imagine how the history of life might unfold deep into the future.
Becoming Wild: How Animals Learn Who They Are
Carl Safina - 2020
By showing how others teach and learn, Safina offers a fresh understanding of what is constantly going on beyond humanity. With reporting from deep in nature, alongside individual creatures in their free-living communities, this book offers a very privileged glimpse behind the curtain of life on Earth, and helps inform the answer to that most urgent of questions: Who are we here with?
The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life
David Quammen - 2018
In the mid-1970s, scientists began using DNA sequences to reexamine the history of all life. Perhaps the most startling discovery to come out of this new field—the study of life’s diversity and relatedness at the molecular level—is horizontal gene transfer (HGT), or the movement of genes across species lines. It turns out that HGT has been widespread and important. For instance, we now know that roughly eight percent of the human genome arrived not through traditional inheritance from directly ancestral forms, but sideways by viral infection—a type of HGT.David Quammen chronicles these discoveries through the lives of the researchers who made them—such as Carl Woese, the most important little-known biologist of the twentieth century; Lynn Margulis, the notorious maverick whose wild ideas about “mosaic” creatures proved to be true; and Tsutomu Wantanabe, who discovered that the scourge of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a direct result of horizontal gene transfer, bringing the deep study of genome histories to bear on a global crisis in public health.
Trilobite: Eyewitness to Evolution
Richard Fortey - 2000
As bewilderingly diverse then as the beetle is today, they survived in the arctic or the tropics, were spiky or smooth, were large as lobsters or small as fleas. And because they flourished for three hundred million years, they can be used to glimpse a less evolved world of ancient continents and vanished oceans. Erudite and entertaining, this book is a uniquely exuberant homage to a fabulously singular species.
The Whale: In Search of the Giants of the Sea
Philip Hoare - 2008
Journeying through human and natural history, The Whale is the result of his voyage of discovery into the heart of this obsession and the book that inspired it: Herman Melville's Moby-Dick. Taking us deep into their domain, Hoare shows us these mysterious creatures as they have never been seen before. Following in Ishmael's footsteps, he explores the troubled history of man and whale; visits the historic whaling locales of New Bedford, Nantucket, and the Azores; and traces the whale's cultural history from Jonah to Free Willy. Winner of the prestigious BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction, The Whale is an unforgettable and often moving attempt to explain why these strange and beautiful animals still exert such a powerful hold on our imagination.
The Zoologist's Guide to the Galaxy: What Animals on Earth Reveal about Aliens – and Ourselves
Arik Kershenbaum - 2020
Scientists are confident that there is alien life across the universe yet we have not moved beyond our perception of 'aliens' as Hollywood stereotypes. The time has come to abandon our fixation on alien monsters and place our expectations on solid scientific footing.Using his own expert understanding of life on Earth and Darwin's theory of evolution - which applies throughout the universe - Cambridge zoologist Dr Arik Kershenbaum explains what alien life must be like: how these creatures will move, socialise and communicate.For example, by observing fishes whose electrical pulses indicate social status, we can see that other planets might allow for communication by electricity. As there was evolutionary pressure to wriggle along a sea floor, Earthling animals tend to have left/right symmetry; on planets where creatures evolved mid-air or in soupy tar they might be lacking any symmetry at all.Might there be an alien planet with supersonic animals? Will they scream with fear, act honestly, or have technology? Is the universe swarming with robots? Dr Kershenbaum uses cutting-edge science to paint an entertaining and compelling picture of extra-terrestrial life.The Zoologist's Guide to the Galaxy is the story of how life really works, on Earth and in space.***'If you don't want to be surprised by extraterrestrial life, look no further than this lively overview of the laws of evolution that have produced life on earth' - Frans de Waal, author of Mama's Last Hug - Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves'A fun, and thoroughly biological, exploration of possible and impossible alien beings. If you'd love to know what real aliens from other planets might really be like, this is the book for you' - Susan Blackmore, author of Seeing Myself'Surveying the deep-time of evolution on Earth and his own cutting-edge research into animal communication, Kershenbaum provides a fascinating insight into the deepest of questions: what might an alien actually look like'- Lewis Dartnell, author of Origins'Arik Kershenbaum takes us on a joyous voyage of animal diversity and illustrates the singular importance of natural selection in explaining life - here on Earth - and what will likely be discovered throughout the galaxy. A stimulating read!' - Daniel T. Blumstein, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California Los Angeles
A Brief History of Earth: Four Billion Years in Eight Chapters
Andrew H. Knoll - 2021
Probably most or even all of the above. The story of our home planet and the organisms spread across its surface is far more spectacular than any Hollywood blockbuster, filled with enough plot twists to rival a bestselling thriller. But only recently have we begun to piece together the whole mystery into a coherent narrative. Drawing on his decades of field research and up-to-the-minute understanding of the latest science, renowned geologist Andrew H. Knoll delivers a rigorous yet accessible biography of Earth, charting our home planet's epic 4.6 billion-year story. Placing twenty first-century climate change in deep context, A Brief History of Earth is an indispensable look at where we’ve been and where we’re going.Features original illustrations depicting Earth history and nearly 50 figures (maps, tables, photographs, graphs).