A mini book review The Book of Life Stephen Jay Gould, General Editor 1993, Random House A

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From: sharpe@nmesis (Richard Sharpe) A mini book review The Book of Life Stephen Jay Gould, General Editor 1993, Random House Australia, ISBN 0-09-182764-7 I joined the Double Day History Book club recently. In a catalogue I saw _The Book of Life_ by Stephen Jay Gould and could not resist it. I was very delighted when it turned up. Here is a short description of it. _The Book of Life_ would be good reading for many of the t.o regulars, although some of the more scholarly would find that it does not tell them anything new. It seems to be designed as an advanced coffee table book like Niles Eldridges' Fossils: Evolution and Extinction (I think I have that right). It is 256 pages long and contains excellent colour illustrations. Best of all, I got it for A$11 off the said retail price of A$45.95 :-) It contains the following chapters: Preface: Reconstructing (and deconstructing) the past, Stephen Jay Gould Intro: Life and Time, Michael Benton Ch 1: Foundations: Life in the oceans, J John Sepkoski Jr Ch 2: The rise of the fishes, Michael Benton Ch 3: Four feet on the ground, Michael Benton Ch 4: Dinosaur summer, Michale Benton Ch 5: Victors by default, Christine Janis Ch 6: The primates' progress Peter Andrews and Christopher Stringer All of the articles are copyright 1993, so they are up-to-date. The authors, while not all familiar to me at first glance, have impressive qualifications. Quoting from the back fly-leaf: "Stephen Jay Gould of Harvard University [as if he needs any introduction]..." "J John Sepkoski Jr, who worked with Gould at Harvard, is Professor at the University of Chicago, and is a paleontologist specialising in evolutionary radiation and mass extinction." "Michael Benton is a leading expert on extinct reptiles, amphibians and dinosaurs..." "Christine Janis ..., is one of the world's leading experts on the evolution of mammals" "Christopher Stringer is a research scientist in the Human Origins Group at the Natural History Museum, London ..." "Peter Andrews is a research scientist in the Human Origins Group at the Natural History Museum, London ..." The colour plates are excellent, it has diagrams showing the position of the continents at many times in the past with indications of the radiation of various phyla and species. Page 101 for example contains a box on Global Extinction Patterns. This box has a graph in it with Oxygen Isotope curve, Carbon Isotope curve, Marine Strontium Isotope curve, and percentage of continents covered by sea, all one above each other all showing the discontinuity at the end of the Permian, 245MYA. It also shows the position of the continents at the same time. For me, just the box dealing with the evolution of the horse was worth it. The only disappointing thing about the book is the lack of references or a section on further reading. Curiously, Gould's preface contains references, but they are of little interest to me.

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