Paleontology: A Brief History of Life by Ian Tattersall

By Ian Tattersall

"Endlessly soaking up and informative. it might be not easy to visualize a larger creation to this most crucial and engaging field.”—Bill Bryson, writer of A brief historical past of approximately Everything

Paleontology: a quick heritage of Life is the 5th identify released within the Templeton technology and faith sequence, within which scientists from quite a lot of fields distill their event and wisdom into short excursions in their respective specialties.
In this quantity, Ian Tattersall, a hugely esteemed determine within the fields of anthropology, archaeology, and paleontology, leads a desirable travel of the heritage of lifestyles and the evolution of human beings.
Starting on the very starting, Tattersall examines styles of swap within the biosphere through the years, and the correlations of organic occasions with actual adjustments within the Earth’s setting. He introduces the advanced of evolutionary strategies, situates humans within the luxuriant variety of lifestyles (demonstrating that even if notable we might legitimately locate ourselves to be, we're the made from a similar uncomplicated forces and tactics that experience pushed the evolutionary histories of all different creatures), and he areas the beginning of our remarkable non secular sensibilities within the context of the exaptational and emergent acquisition of symbolic cognition and thought.
Concise and but finished, traditionally penetrating and but updated, responsibly authentic and but enticing, Paleontology serves because the ideal entrée to science's maximum story.

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At one time these last were thought related to today’s sea pens, opening the way to construing many Ediacaran forms as precursors of living groups. 2. Dickinsonia, a probable animal that is one of the classic Ediacaran fossil forms. Courtesy of Niles Eldredge. group of altogether uncertain affinities. If this is the case, the core Ediacaran biota was a natural experiment that ultimately failed, leaving no descendants in the post-­Precambrian world. Still, this is controversial, and molecular clock estimates suggest that ancestors of today’s metazoans were already in existence 600 million years ago.

Living things were either animals (Kingdom Animalia) or plants (Kingdom Plantae). And although early microscopists such as Antony van Leeuwenhoek had, by the late seventeenth century, already observed and described tiny single-­celled bacteria, it was a long time before most biologists realized that things were a whole lot more complicated than Linnaeus and his contemporaries had thought. Attachment to the older view had much to do with the fact that the basic quality believed to distinguish animals from plants was motility—the ability to move around—which meant that van Leeuwenhoek’s tiny single-­celled organisms could conveniently be classified into one 38 • cha p ter thr ee group or the other simply on the basis of whether they sat still on a microscope slide or not.

What’s more, most selection is clearly devoted to the maintenance of ongoing integration and function—that is, assuring non­change. Indeed, looking across the entire range of living things, it is altogether remarkable how many basic genes are still shared by the most disparate-­looking organisms. It’s been estimated that we share 40 percent of our genome with a banana. Remarkably, although they have huge amounts of DNA, organisms have rather few genes. In humans, only twenty-­five thousand genes control the vast array of functions necessary to produce and maintain a fully functioning adult individual.

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