While I post about a lot of history books, sometimes it’s fun to dig into a simple popular science book, such as this new title:
Stephen R. Palumbi and Anthony R. Palumbi, The Extreme Life of the Sea (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014), 256 pp.
The ocean teems with life that thrives under difficult situations in unusual environments. The Extreme Life of the Sea takes readers to the absolute limits of the ocean world–the fastest and deepest, the hottest and oldest creatures of the oceans. It dives into the icy Arctic and boiling hydrothermal vents–and exposes the eternal darkness of the deepest undersea trenches–to show how marine life thrives against the odds. This thrilling book brings to life the sea’s most extreme species, and tells their stories as characters in the drama of the oceans. Coauthored by Stephen Palumbi, one of today’s leading marine scientists, The Extreme Life of the Sea tells the unforgettable tales of some of the most marvelous life forms on Earth, and the challenges they overcome to survive. Modern science and a fluid narrative style give every reader a deep look at the lives of these species.
The Extreme Life of the Sea shows you the world’s oldest living species. It describes how flying fish strain to escape their predators, how predatory deep-sea fish use red searchlights only they can see to find and attack food, and how, at the end of her life, a mother octopus dedicates herself to raising her batch of young. This wide-ranging and highly accessible book also shows how ocean adaptations can inspire innovative commercial products–such as fan blades modeled on the flippers of humpback whales–and how future extremes created by human changes to the oceans might push some of these amazing species over the edge.
Sara Levine, Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons (Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publishing Group, 2013), 32 pp. Illustrated by T.S Spookytooth.
What animal would you be if your finger bones grew so long that they reached your feet? Or what if you had no leg bones but kept your arm bones? This picture book will keep you guessing as you read about how human skeletons are like—and unlike—those of other animals.
Although this book does not discuss evolutionary relationships (homology, common descent), it is a fun introduction to comparative anatomy for elementary students!
Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures, by Virgina Morrell (New York: Crown, 2013), 291 pp.
Did you know that ants teach, earthworms make decisions, rats love to be tickled, and chimps grieve? Did you know that some dogs have thousand-word vocabularies and that birds practice songs in their sleep? That crows improvise tools, blue jays plan ahead, and moths remember living as caterpillars?
Animal Wise takes us on a dazzling odyssey into the inner world of animals, from ants to elephants to wolves, and from sharp-shooting archerfish to pods of dolphins that rumble like rival street gangs. With 30 years of experience covering the sciences, Morell uses her formidable gifts as a story-teller to transport us to field sites and laboratories around the world, introducing us to pioneering animal-cognition researchers and their surprisingly intelligent and sensitive subjects. She explores how this rapidly evolving, controversial field has only recently overturned old notions about why animals behave as they do. She probes the moral and ethical dilemmas of recognizing that even “lesser animals” have cognitive abilities such as memory, feelings, personality, and self-awareness–traits that many in the twentieth century felt were unique to human beings.
By standing behaviorism on its head, Morell brings the world of nature brilliantly alive in a nuanced, deeply felt appreciation of the human-animal bond, and she shares her admiration for the men and women who have simultaneously chipped away at what we think makes us distinctive while offering a glimpse of where our own abilities come from.
At some point in our lives, my family and I wish to visit the Galapagos Islands. No surprise, huh?
It is sad to report the news that Lonesome George, the last known member of the Galapagos Tortoise subspecies Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni, died on June 24th. Originally from Pinta Island and relocated to the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island, George died in his habitat, assumed to be from natural causes. He was an estimated 100 years old.
RIP, Lonesome George. Patrick drew a picture for you:
Tonight, we will be reading a children’s book we have about Lonesome George. And we came across a neat online book about him and other Galapagos critters, The Only One.
This is the title of a recent dissertation, by David Allen Feller, at the University of Cambridge. It was reviewed at Dissertation Reviews, here:
This dissertation is an exciting contribution to our understanding of nineteenth-century science. Its emphasis on specific cultural factors in the process of discovery, the propagation and persuasiveness of ideas, is very valuable, quite beyond its interest to scholars of Darwin. Feller’s emphasis on the importance of scientists sharing space with animals, not just using them to understand the world, but collaborating with them in that understanding, is equally novel and important. In considering how Darwin worked not only with ‘the dog’ as a species, in all its variety, but also with dogs as individuals, Feller shows how a different kind of history of science might be imagined and written. This is an excellent thesis, and highly recommended.