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Five Kingdoms: An Illustrated Guide To The Phyla Of Life On Earth [Paperback]

Lynn Margulis
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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This is the most complete and original biological field guide in history. Lynn Margulis, one of the most brilliant biologists of the 20th century, and her colleague Karlene Schwartz provide a roller-skate tour of the whole world of living things, from the smallest bacteria in the hot springs of Yellowstone to the mightiest oak (humans too, but we are set firmly in our place). In his Foreword, Stephen Jay Gould says "If the originality comes before us partly as a 'picture book,' it should not be downgraded for that reason--for primates are visual animals, and the surest instruction in a myriad of unknown creatures must be a set of figures with concise instruction about their meaning--all done so admirably in this volume." --Mary Ellen Curtin

From Library Journal

With diagrams, drawings, and photographs, this classic guide to the scientific classification of organisms into phylum can be used as a quick reference for systematics or as a source of information on evolutionary trends and organismal relationships. An appendix offers a listing of phyla and genera, with vernacular names when possible. For biology students at any level.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Life�s vast pageant Aug. 4 2002
By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
This book is a stunning compendium of the range of life forms found on our planet. Margulis and Schwartz describe it as "a catalog of the world's living diversity." It is a vividly descriptive assortment of selected examples from the Five Kingdoms of life formulated by R.H. Whittiker. The authors stress how much new knowledge, particularly in the study of unicellular life forms, has been gained in recent years. They explain how classification identifies organisms and show how modern techniques have led to the expansion of life's kingdoms from two to five. A description of prokaryotes and eucaryotes is given, followed by the body of 92 phyla descriptions. The book is arranged to be either studied as a reference or browsed as an introduction to biological forms. Each entry is carefully organized with the type of information [environment, measurement scales, diagrams] in a consistent location.
However, this is more than simply a collection of illustrative examples of various organisms. The most fascinating chapter relates the authors' proposal to modify one of the standard classifications of life - the Protoctists, replacing Whittiker's Protists. "The Kingdom Protoctista is defined by exclusion," they state. "Its members are neither animals, plants, fungi nor procaryotes." Their common characteristics are nucleated cells, some kind of flagellum and live in an oxygenated atmosphere [unlike many unicellular forms which cannot tolerate oxygen. Their argument contends that many multicellular forms are more
directly related to these unicellular forms than they are to other multi-celled organisms.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly Fun June 21 2002
Format:Paperback
Although this is primarily intended to be an illustrated reference guide, it's a surprisingly fun one to thumb through. Part of that is the delight of looking at pictures and illustrations of some truly strange organisms (science fiction writers should really buy this book to see what genuinely alien creatures are like), but also due to the plethora of interesting facts.
I know that when I was reading through the section detailing the Animal phylla, I was struck by how many creatures -- entire phyllums -- get along without even rudimentary brains (or digestive systems, respiratory systems, circulatory systems, or even organs, altogether, in some cases). Likewise I was surprised to learn that only two phylla (including our own) ever developed winged flight.
The sections comprising the non-Animal kingdoms were of particular interest to me mainly for the simple reason that they invariably get little attention from most texts. At best, you'll usally find a chapter dealing with micro-organisms as a whole, and a brief chapter on plants. To see how much sheer diverity there is in just the Fungus kingdom is eye-opening.
I will note that the book does assume a basic level of biological literacy and that it sometimes throws jargon at the reader with little warning or explaination but, as a whole, this is a very accessible work and well worth having on one's shelf.
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Format:Paperback
I recommend this book partly on the basis of the two page descriptions and line drawings of each phylum. But I am most impressed with the substantially less animal bias in the treatment of every form of life. Regardless of whether one believes in a five kingdom system or a ten or more kingdom system, this book gives fair coverage to the less celebrated protist groups.
But with all the recent molecular studies that could have served to compliment Lynn's endosymbiotic scenarios, I was disappointed to not see any grand synthesis. With respect to algal phylogenetic hypotheses, a college phycology text published in 1995 (Algae : An Introduction to Phycology by C. Van Den Hoek and others) was more up to date than this 1998 work. In fact some of the groupings made were definitely artificial even without the benefit of the most recent molecular data. Among the most disappointing findings was the lumping of some Heterokonts with choanoflagellates into a "Zoomastigota". The Heterokonts is a fairly diverse group that includes brown algae, diatoms, and water molds and others on the basis of their undulipodia (flagella)and molecular characters. Choanoflagellates are simple organisms that are said to resemble sponge cells, and thus have been proposed to share the most recent common ancestor with true animals. Though I have no problems accepting paraphyletic taxa, even then this "Zoomastigota" would be artificial if molecular evidence continues to suggest that animals (with choanoflagellates) and fungi are closer to each other than they are to heterokonts or green plants.
A less serious quibble that I have was the unnecessary splitting of the Desmids, spirogyra, et al. from Chlorophyta (all green algae).
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