Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Fossil and Some Science

Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body by Neil Shubin

Summary: 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.

Review: A book that functions more to celebrate his discovery than to function as an informative book about evolution.

This book was short and a quick read. And there were a number of illustrations. The illustrations were useful and informative, but cut down on the already slim amount of text. The first few chapters the author focused on his discovery of Tiktaalik and a book about his discovery would have been fine, but I was expecting a timeline of sorts showing how we came from sea creatures to humans. He also mentions some anecdotes about finding fossils and how they are important. 

The book picked up when Shubin finally goes into how similar we are to animals, including sea creatures. He also goes over the differences, but there aren't as many as one would think. Sadly, the chapters are quick and do not go into much detail. The chapters include body parts such as the eye, the spine, and the nerves in the brain. Of most interest was how similar embryos can be and how they shared a lot in the way they developed. I think this book would have fared much better if it had been longer and had included more information and science. 


Recommendation: I would recommend to those with a strong interest in evolution and anatomy of animals.

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