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How the Snake Lost its Legs: Curious Tales from the Frontier of Evo-Devo Paperback – 9 Jan 2014

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Product details

  • Paperback: 306 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (9 Jan. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1107621399
  • ISBN-13: 978-1107621398
  • Product Dimensions: 17.4 x 1.6 x 24.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 113,182 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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'In How the Snake Lost its Legs, Professor Held describes the key concepts that are at the foundation of evo/devo, in a language that is clear and simple as well as scientifically accurate, and in a manner that is sure to captivate the curious reader. In the second half of the book, he unveils a series of 'Just So' stories, a mixture of fascinating vignettes providing insights into what we now know about the evolution of various creatures, and teasing explorations of what remains to be learned. The book is a wonderful introduction to the field.' Cliff Tabin, Harvard Medical School

'Professor Held has created a remarkable work of scholarship, notable for its accessibility, readability, and breadth with an overall welcoming tone that is reminiscent of those memorable professors who make the complex approachable through their lectures … The book works on several levels, suitable for sampling as well as for an entire read. The concluding 'bestiary' celebrates the diversity of life and the vast array of questions that await answers. Students in particular will benefit from the book's presentation of multiple examples of the changing face of knowledge, how a story can be woven from a careful reading and cross-comparison of the literature, and the power of generating organization schemes (classifications) to help make sense of a complicated body of literature.' Richard L. Blanton, North Carolina State University

'Lewis Held has explicitly not written a 'textbook' - it is much more informal and whimsical than that. He has succeeded admirably in exploring evo-devo through a format akin to Kipling's Just So Stories (there is a fine irony here). He ranges from thoroughly researched topics … through to intriguing snippets … A wealth of information and ideas is conveyed with rigour, clarity and wit, and the text is supported by excellent, distinctive figures and by generous reference to the research literature. This remarkable book is a real 'page-turner' and it is likely to both inform and enchant all of us interested in biological diversity and how it arises.' Vernon French, University of Edinburgh

'No single research study can convey what Lewis Held's new book does: demonstrate the richness of evolutionary developmental biology as a way to understand major transitions in evolution and their mechanistic underpinnings. This is a must-have resource for anyone who is teaching or learning or simply interested in evolutionary biology.' Günter P. Wagner, Yale University

'… accessible to any reader interested in evolutionary biology while also satisfying the more expert 'evo-devotees' willing to explore the depicted topics in depth.' Arnaud Martin, Evolution and Development

Book Description

Taking inspiration from Kipling's 'Just So Stories', this book explores emerging insights from evo-devo to explain the science behind tiger stripes, camel humps, and many other fascinating animal traits. Held's unique and engaging style makes this narrative both enlightening and entertaining, guiding students and researchers through even complex concepts.

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By anthony on 30 April 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Fun with evolution 6 Jun. 2014
By Barry R. Davis - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Lewis Held does it again with another thoroughly entertaining book about evolution, genetics, and development. Taking off from his previous work on “Quirks of Human Anatomy”, the author now tackles the entire animal kingdom. Using Rudyard Kipling’s “Just So Stories” as an inspiration, Held poses the generic question how the “animal“ got (or some other verb) its “part”. Everything is covered from A to Z - literally. In an engaging, easygoing style, he presents great details (including some intricate diagrams and figures, a glossary, and over 2500 references) about some creatures - the fly, the butterfly, the snake – and then presents a series of short essays on many others. There are some common well-known animals – bat, camel, and crocodile – and some not so well-known ones - jerboa, quagga, and remora. “How the Snake Lost Its Legs” would be a wonderful addition to a course on evolution. It also stands alone as a very interesting scientific book.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Fascinating reading 29 May 2014
By David Sudderth - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
This book rekindles the childhood spark of curiosity we naturally experienced when looking at animals with fresh eyes. The imaginations of readers from all backgrounds will delight in the questions it poses. How did insects get their wings? How did the camel get its hump? How did the cheetah get its spots? This book stands out not only for the way that it connects these evo-devo puzzles to Kipling, but to much larger questions. For, as Held reminds us, the explorations of animals in the book reveal our own history; looking across the animal kingdom allows us a glimpse through time at our own origins.
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