The Ancestor's Tale

The Ancestor's Tale

A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Life

Book - 2004
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THE ANCESTOR'S TALE is a pilgrimage back through time; a journey on which we meet up with fellow pilgrims as we and they converge on our common ancestors. Chimpanzees join us at about 6 million years in the past, gorillas at 7 million years, orang utans at 14 million years, as we stride on together, a growing band. The journey provides the setting for a collection of some 40 tales. Each explores an aspect of evolutionary biology through the stories of characters met along the way or glimpsed from afar - the Elephant Bird's Tale, the Marsupial Mole's Tale, the Lungfish's Tale. Together they give a deep understanding of the processes that have shaped life on Earth: convergent evolution, the isolation of populations, continental drift, the great extinctions. The tales are interspersed with prologues detailing the journey, route maps showing joining lineages, and life-like reconstructions of our common ancestors. THE ANCESTOR'S TALE represents a pilgrimage on an unimaginable scale: our goal is four billion years away, and the number of pilgrims joining us grows vast - ultimately encompassing all living creatures. At the end of the journey lies something remarkable in its simplicity and transformative power: the first, humble, replicating molecules.
Publisher: London : Weidenfeld & Nicolson, c2004.
ISBN: 9780297825036
0297825038
Characteristics: 528 p. :,ill. (some col.), maps ;,25 cm.

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r
ryner
Feb 27, 2018

Imagine traveling back in time to observe the last shared ancestor of humans, bonobos and chimpanzees. What might that individual have looked like? What was its lifestyle? And what if we ventured further back, to when those three species shared an ancestor with gorillas? How long would it take before we met up with the ancestors of all mammals, birds, lizards, sharks or insects? This book is a reverse journey of human ancestry, each stop a convergence with an extant group in the tree of life.

There's nothing I love more than a thick, detailed book of natural history, and I enthusiastically enjoyed it, though I have to admit that sometime during the final quarter my eyes started to glaze over when the subject matter turned heavily to cell biology and genetics -- no fault of the author, it's not my wheelhouse. Recommended heartily to natural history buffs.

d
dee_kelln
Jul 08, 2016

A really interesting read, but so much information. A huge book with pages chock full of small print. Really helped me understand how living things are related and the new phylogeny charts.

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