Everybody Out of the Pond
At the Water's Edge will change the way you think about your place in the world. The awesome journey of life's transformation from the first microbes 4 billion years ago to Homo sapiens today is an epic that we are only now beginning to grasp. Magnificent and bizarre, it is the story of how we got here, what we left behind, and what we brought with us.
We all know about evolution, but it still seems absurd that our ancestors were fish. Darwin's idea of natural selection was the key to solving generation-to-generation evolution -- microevolution -- but it could only point us toward a complete explanation, still to come, of the engines of macroevolution, the transformation of body shapes across millions of years. Now, drawing on the latest fossil discoveries and breakthrough scientific analysis, Carl Zimmer reveals how macroevolution works. Escorting us along the trail of discovery up to the current dramatic research in paleontology, ecology, genetics, and embryology, Zimmer shows how scientists today are unveiling the secrets of life that biologists struggled with two centuries ago.
In this book, you will find a dazzling, brash literary talent and a rigorous scientific sensibility gracefully brought together. Carl Zimmer provides a comprehensive, lucid, and authoritative answer to the mystery of how nature actually made itself.
One of the hallmarks of life is change. In his first book, Zimmer, a senior editor and feature writer at Discover magazine, has chosen to explicate two of the biggest examples of organic evolution the Earth has ever seen. He starts by describing how fish, beginning between 350 and 400 million years ago, evolved into creatures who crawled out of the water and, eventually, into terrestrial mammals able to breathe air, withstand the pressures of gravity and move about without the aid of water. He then turns his attention to how, 40-50 million years ago, some well-adapted terrestrial mammals went back into the sea and, over time, gave rise to whales, porpoises and their marine relatives. Zimmer shows that the transformation back to aquatic life--without the luxury of gills, fins and the host of additional adaptations that make fish so successful--was an amazing evolutionary feat. Zimmer treats the controversy surrounding the mechanism of macroevolution only cursorily: he opts not to take a position in the conflict between the proponents of punctuated equilibrium and the advocates of gradualism. But he makes up for that lack with his gripping account of how scientists work. By accompanying scientists into the field, visiting them in their laboratories and conducting extensive interviews with them, Zimmer communicates the excitement of cutting-edge scientific research and fieldwork. More than just an informative book about macroevolution itself, this is an entertaining history of ideas written with literary flair and technical rigor. Line drawings and diagrams throughout.