December 29, 2009

Your Inner Fish

Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin, one of the members of the team that discovered the beautiful Tiktaalik transitional fossil, is just delightful. It's a short, but comprehensive whirlwind tour of evolutionary biology with a fantastic guide. We learn not only all this great freaky stuff about anatomy and fossils and geology and taxonomy and everything in between but we also learn how they know all that stuff.

And it's clearly written! It's easy to understand and entertaining. And the best part is, Shubin is a humble, smart and funny narrator. He describes going out on fossil digs with old pros early in his career and finding himself embarrassed to be walking the exact spots they are and not being able to see the fossils in the rocks the way they are, until one day they just pop out at him, like one of those 3D pictures you stare at and stare at and finally "see" right as you're about to give it up.

This would be a great book for someone thinking about going into the biological sciences, or as an undergrad course as well as a fun popular read for the rest of us. He's even loaded all the diagrams as slides onto this website and is encouraging their use in the classroom.