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Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body Paperback – Jan 6 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1 Reprint edition (Jan. 6 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307277453
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307277459
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 13.9 x 1.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 227 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #18,931 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on March 28 2008
Format: Hardcover
What a pity there is no Nobel for palaeontology. Some sort of award should be given to Neil Shubin for finding "Tiktaalik" in the Canadian Arctic. It wasn't a chance find - he relates the detailed planning steps leading to its discovery. An extra ribbon should grace the medal for explaining that fossil's significance in this book. There have been recent accounts on the evolutionary path of animals emerging from the sea to take up the role of landlubber. Carl Zimmer's "At The Water's Edge" and Jenny Clack's "Gaining Ground" are examples. Both preceded the "Tiktaalik" find, but more to the point here is that while both are excellent writers, Shubin demonstrates communicative skills bordering on the superb. This is truly a book for everybody. Especially if you want to know why you develop hiccups.

A great fuss was made over the "Tiktaalik" discovery. What is its significance? For starters, it was flat-headed ["So what? I know lots of people who are flat . . ."]. While we may consider flat heads in derogatory terms, for life emerging from the sea, it was a vital step. That the head could move independent of the rest of the body was even more significant. Fish cannot do this, and except for bottom dwellers, don't have flat heads. Further, "Tiktaalik's" eye structure gave it forward vision. In a creature 375 million years old, these characteristics are significant. They offer clues to how you and I are put together and why. Shubin offers a meaningful example of this when he showed "Tiktaalik" to his daughter's preschool class and they declared it to be both fish and reptile - which is the key to the value of his work here.

Land dwelling, Shubin reminds us, requires major changes in body plan.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A. Volk #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWER on June 2 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a fascinating view on the evolutionary legacy of the human body. How much we (and other related animals) owe our current body design to ancestors in the past. Evolution works by modifying what already exists, so one can usually trace the evolutionary history of species by tracing their body plans. Animals that share similar body plans tend to be related to each other. That doesn't mean similar forms (that's convergent evolution), it means they're built out of the same materials, using the same methods. The latter point is quite important, as that relates to DNA, giving us a second method for examining evolutionary history- compare the DNA of the organisms, with an eye towards the building genes.

Overall, this is a fascinating book and a good example of solid science. I enjoyed reading the book, and found that it was suited to academics and general audiences. Shubin has done a very good job in making a fossil fish from the arctic turn into a fascinating story that's well worth the read. If you ever want to give a skeptic evidence on human origins and the evolution of species, this book also does that very nicely. Well done Dr. Shubin.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Oliver TOP 500 REVIEWER on July 5 2008
Format: Hardcover
Shubin's Your Inner Fish covers a lot of ground. As the title suggests, a good part of the book discusses the similarities between living creatures: in some ways, Shubin explains, we are very like fish. Of course, we are separated by fish by some hundreds of millions of years, which leaves a lot to discuss. The final chapter includes a brief but interesting discussion of how understanding our own evolutionary history can help us understand how and why we get sick. Those few pages left me wanting more. In addition to hard science, Shubin also includes some personal history, including the hunt for the fossil known as Tiktaalik, one of the first fish to make the transition to land.

This book reminds me, in some respects, of Richard Dawkins' excellent book, The Ancestor's Tale (but perhaps only because I have not read that much paleontology). Both books explain the evolution of the fascinating ancient creatures that are our great, great . . . great grandparents.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Peter J. Morris on Aug. 24 2010
Format: Paperback
This is a great book, it meanders a little but if I were looking for something to give to a biology student as a gift, or to help ease interested and intelligent readers into the world of science writing, this one would be on the shortest list. Wonderful quick look over several related fields that leaves all sorts of tantalizing hints of other areas to explore. This guy must be a fantastic professor to learn from, he writes lucidly and without a hint of condescension, about a subject he is obviously passionate for and learned in. I loved it, just wish it were longer and had a more comprehensive bibliography or source guide. Can't wait to see what else he writes in the future, definitely an emerging voice in a crowded field.
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