Great read for evolutionary biologists and for those interested reading about our past and how we're related to fish, reptiles, and other organisms. It was a little basic and didn't go into much depth, but was a good overview.
Excellent book. This is a dry scientific subject that Neil Shubin rendered fascinating and easily accessible. It does make you think in different ways on numerous counts. There are a few key concepts that are very original for the layperson.
Every animal descends from a preceding animal ancestor. And, it is just a matter of how far back you want to go and at what scale. The author focuses on one of the first fish that left the waters to live on land. This hybrid fish-land creature was the Tiktaalik that lived 375 million years ago. Much of our genetic heritage including our skeleton structure can be traced back to Tiktaalik. As a transition-animal between sea and land, It had gills but also lungs. It had a shoulder bone structure and a neck that made it possible for it to support itself on land without the buoyancy of water.
Shubin mentioned at the end of the book, he could have called his book “Your Inner Worm” or “Your Inner Yeast” and go further back in time near the onset of life three billion years ago. This is because simpler life forms had already a DNA structure that was well aligned with human beings.
Thus, nature has just a few rather universal templates. DNA of all living animals has a similar structure. If we look at larger animals with limbs, fins, etc. they often have very similar bone structures. A limb appears to always have one big bone for the upper part of the limb that is joined by two much smaller bones at the lower part of the limb. This design maximizes the limb’s strength and flexibility.
Sir Richard Owen, a british anatomist in the mid 1800s, was the first one to make this observation that the vast majority of animals followed this universal skeleton design. Charles Darwin explained that it entailed most of those animals had a common ancestor. And, that is where the Tiktaalik land-based hybrid fish comes in.
The embryos of a human and a shark at an early stage seem almost undistinguishable. In fact, all embryos look very much alike and are structured in very similar ways across a huge variety of species.
Reptiles loose, break, and replace their teeths because they do not chew precisely like mammals. The latter have only one set of adult teeth over their lifetime. However, they have a greater diversity of teeth structure including incisors and molars that allow humans to process with their jaw a far more varied diet structure than reptiles.
Near the end of the book, Shubin states how human design has numerous flaws associated with the genetic inheritance from fish and amphibian ancestors whose respective design is not well designed for living on dry land, breathing air, and standing upright on two legs. If nature were to design a human being without the constraints of evolution with its, genetic inheritance, it would arrive at a much different design on several counts. In case, you ever have knee problems, hernia in your lower belly (for men), and various breathing issues, including frequent hiccups, you can blame those problems on our fish heritage.
Let me start with the chances of successful mutations happening. Millions of successful mutations would have to occur for a fish to turn into a mammal. As is very obvious, successful mutations today are extremely rare, and almost all were engineered by a human, so the mutation was not natural. Mutations are almost always fatal, tumors are mutations for example. Natural Selection works against evolution so that is not true either. God created us as we are, we did not evolve from a fish, a monkey, or a lizard. Do NOT read this excuse to remove Our Lord from the equation.
Just could not get into it - and I was almost a biology major! :-(
The video is also worth a look.
I just wish all high school science textbooks can be this fun and easy to read. Too late for me to become a biologist or a doctor but this book has added another dimension to my understanding of the human life form among its living relatives.
Thoroughly enjoyable book which covers our 3.5 billion journey to humanity. Neil Shubin has put together a book which belongs in the book collection of any person interesting in a greater understanding of how we came to be what we call human.
From the tiny bones in our mammalian ears to the arrangement of individual bones in each of our limbs, Neil Shubin lays out a fascinating picture of the many ways in which our modern human bodies are abounding with remnants of a more "fishy" body and lifestyle. Many features are obvious when studying a skeleton, several more become apparent when described and illustrated, and still others, such as predictive gene behavior, come to light only with experimentation. This book had many aha! moments, and spoke forcefully to my inner paleontologist, which had me half questioning my less scientific career choices. Marvelous.
A great way to understand the biology you didn't really understand in high school.
An excellent read for anyone interested in development, evolution and the interrelatedness of all animal life.
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