Written in Stone: The Hidden Secrets of Fossils and the Story of Life on Earth

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9781848313422: Written in Stone: The Hidden Secrets of Fossils and the Story of Life on Earth

The first book on the hunt for evolution's `missing links' over the last three decades - and what palaeontologists' findings mean for our place on earth. Darwin's theory was for more than a century dogged by a major problem: the evidence proving the connections between the main groups of organisms was nowhere to be found. By the 1970s this absence of `transitional fossils' was hotly debated; some palaeontologists wondering if these `missing links' had been so quick that no trace of them was left. However, during the past three decades fossils of walking whales from Pakistan, feathered dinosaurs from China, fish with feet from the Arctic Circle, ape-like humans from Africa, and many more bizarre creatures that fill in crucial gaps in our understanding of evolution have all been unearthed. These discoveries have revolutionised the way in which the fossil record is read to make sense of life on Earth, including the evolution of human beings. WRITTEN IN STONE - a hugely compelling scientific history by an up-and-coming star of popular science - is the first account of the remarkable discovery of these gap-fossils and of the new stories they tell about the evolution of life.

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About the Author:

BRIAN SWITEK writes a blog for Wired magazine which has been featured in the Guardian, Daily Mail, New Scientist, The New York Times and The Times ('Brilliant writing about palaeontology and evolution, with great daily photos'). He has been a guest on BBC Radio 4's Material World and written for The Times and the Guardian.

From Publishers Weekly:

Starred Review. Beginning with a recently discovered 47-million-year-old primate fossil, Switek effectively and eloquently demonstrates the exponential increase in fossils that have been found since Darwin first published On the Origin of Species. In delightful prose, he blends information about fossil evidence with the scientific debates about how that evidence might be best interpreted. Switek, who writes the Smithsonian's Dinosaur Tracking blog, focuses on evidence for the evolution of major lineages, from reptiles to birds and from fish to tetrapods. He also explains at length how whales, horses, and humans evolved, marshaling compelling fossil evidence and combining it with information from molecular biology; at every step, he makes clear what is still unknown. He underscores that life forms have not "progressed" through evolution to end with Homo sapiens as the highest life form; rather, evolution has produced "a wildly branching tree of life with no predetermined path or endpoint." He superbly shows that "f we can let go of our conceit," we will see the preciousness of life in all its forms. 90 b&w illus. (Nov.) (c)
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