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The Cambrian Explosion: The Construction of Animal Biodiversity

by Douglas H Erwin and James W Valentine

Greenwood Village (CO): Roberts and Company, 2013. 416 pages.

Reviewer Roy E Plotnick writes that The Cambrian Explosion “will become required reading for anyone who wants to understand the multiple lines of evidence, from geology, geochemistry, paleontology, genetics, phylogenetics, comparative morphology, and ecology, that have to be integrated to understand one of the most important episodes in the history of life.” He praises the writing and the artwork as well as the scientific content, which “will become the foundation for research ...

The Major Transitions in Evolution Revisited

edited by Brett Calcott and Kim Sterelny

Cambridge (MA): MIT Press, 2011. 319 pages.

“In 1995, with the publication of their book The Major Transitions in Evolution … , John Maynard Smith and Eörs Szathmáry introduced a new way of thinking about the ‘big picture’ of the history of life on Earth,” explains reviewer Derek Turner, a way that the papers in Calcott and Sterelny’s collection explore, extend, and critique. Warning that the book is not for the beginner, Turner adds, “The contributors include a mix of scientists and philosophers of biology.

The Universe Within

by Neil Shubin

New York: Pantheon Books, 2013. 240 pages.

In the sequel to Your Inner Fish, writes reviewer Alycia Stigall, “Shubin takes an even more expansive approach to explaining how humans came to occupy our place in this world—and indeed how this world even came to be a place for us to occupy. … Moreover, he deftly intersperses his discussion of evolutionary innovations with anecdotes about the scientists and studies that generated these insights.

The Rocks Don’t Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah’s Flood

by David R. Montgomery

New York: WW Norton, 2012. 320 pages.

“David R. Montgomery, a University of Washington geomorphologist, has written an entertaining and very readable book detailing why Flood literalists find so little support in the rock record,” writes reviewer Steven Newton. “Ranging from Mount Everest to the Grand Canyon, from the Creation Museum to ice-dammed Tibetan valleys, Montgomery explains what kind of features a worldwide flood would have created—and why what we see in the real world simply does not match.

The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 Billion Years, from Stardust to Living Planet

by Robert M. Hazen

New York: Viking Adult, 2012. 320 pages.

Reviewer Joseph G Meert was “delighted to see that Hazen’s book turns the standard treatment of Earth history upside down by devoting an almost proportional treatment of space to the Precambrian (90% of the book) and the Phanerozoic (10% of the book).” Also distinctive in the book is Hazen’s emphasis on mineral evolution: “the complexity of mineral species on the Earth is a function of the interplay among life, environment, and chemistry.” Meert concludes, “If you are at all interested in deep time, this book will ca

Extinction and Radiation: How the Fall of Dinosaurs Led to the Rise of Mammals

by J. David Archibald
Baltimore (MD): The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011. 120 pages.

In Extinction and Radiation, according to reviewer P. David Polly, it is argued that “the patterns of extinction and survival through the Late Cretaceous and early Paleogene differed among groups of organisms, some of which died off prior to the collision and some of which were unaffected. These patterns thus cannot be entirely explained by a sudden impact.

Written in Stone

by Brian Switek
New York: Bellevue Literary Press, 2010. 320 pages.

Reviewer Pat Shipman regards the individual chapters of Written in Stone as good, particularly the opening chapter on the overselling of Darwinius masillae: “For a student wanting to brush up quickly on, say, human or horse evolution, this book will be a treasure trove.” But she laments the lack of any overarching structure or theme to unify them.

Nature’s Clocks: How Scientists Measure the Age of Almost Everything

by Doug Macdougall
Berkeley (CA): University of California Press, 2008. 288 pages.

“In Nature’s Clocks,” writes reviewer John W Geissman, “Doug Macdougall provides an exceptionally well-written and engaging description ... of how we know what we know about absolute age determinations and thus about our attempts to unravel the uncertainties of deep time.

A Sea without Fish: Life in the Ordovician Sea of the Cincinnati Region

by Richard Arnold Davis with David L. Meyer
Bloomington (IN): Indiana University Press, 2009. 368 pages.

From the publisher: "The Cincinnati area has yielded some of the world's most abundant and best-preserved fossils of invertebrate animals such as trilobites, bryozoans, brachiopods, molluscs, echinoderms, and graptolites. So famous are the Ordovician fossils and rocks of the Cincinnati region that geologists use the term 'Cincinnatian' for strata of the same age all over North America.

The Cambrian Fossils of Chengjiang, China: The Flowering of Early Animal Life

by Hou Xian-Guang, Richard J. Aldridge, Jan Bergström, David J. Siveter, Derek J. Siveter, and Feng Xiang-Hong
Malden (MA): Blackwell Science, 2004. 248 pages.

The first book in the English language on the Chengjiang biota, The Cambrian Fossils of Chengjiang, China succeeds in doing justice to both their scientific importance and -- with scores of color plates -- their wondrous beauty. Reviewing the book for New Scientist, Douglas Palmer writes, "Mainly intended for professional palaeontologists, this spotter's guide details the amazing fossils, 525 million years old, that have been shaking the tree of life for the past 10 years.


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