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The Animal Kingdom: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) Paperback – 24 Nov 2011


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Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (24 Nov. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199593213
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199593217
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 1 x 11.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 189,240 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

About the Author

Peter Holland is Linacre Professor of Zoology and Head of the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford, and a Fellow of Merton College, Oxford. After a degree in Zoology and a PhD in Genetics he has spent the last 20 years undertaking research into the evolution of the animal kingdom, focussing primarily on the genetic and developmental differences between animal groups. He has published over 150 research papers on animal development and evolution.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Bojan Tunguz TOP 500 REVIEWER on 19 Mar. 2012
Format: Paperback
Animals are one of the most familiar and ubiquitous mental categories. They surround all of us, whether they are minuscule flies or oversize pets, and the human history would have been unimaginably different without our oversize reliance on animals. Aside from our daily experience, we learn about animals in school, but unless we end up majoring in biology very few of us go through the trouble of learning about these creatures on a deeper and more systematic level.

In "The Animal Kingdom: A Very Short Introduction" Peter Holland takes us on a journey of rediscovery of animals in all of their fascinating glory. This book can challenge and radically transform one's understanding of what is meant by the word "animal." It turns out that animals are much more diverse and heterogeneous than what most of us suspect. There are estimated millions of species of animals out there, and we'll probably never get a full catalog of them. Like with all other branches of the tree of life, most animals are extremely small or microscopic, live in regions far away from human habitats, and engage in lifestyles that make them extremely hard to detect and study. Even with the known species of animals, the process of categorization and classification can be extremely daunting. For the most of human history, including the past couple of centuries of rapid scientific progress, animals had been categorized in terms of their gross physiological features. This sort of classification worked more or less well for the larger species, but for some smaller ones it created a lot of puzzles. All of this has changed with the advent of DNA analysis which has put the task of animal classification on a much more rigorous footing.
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excellent up to date introduction. in fact, i am most impressed by this whole introduction series and have recently purchased others covering a wide range of subjects.
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really interesting book and provides a very good overview of the animal kingdom, being careful not to fall into the traps of similar books re Human biases.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 2 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Amazing Story of the Animal Kingdom 19 Mar. 2012
By Dr. Bojan Tunguz - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Animals are one of the most familiar and ubiquitous mental categories. They surround all of us, whether they are minuscule flies or oversize pets, and the human history would have been unimaginably different without our oversize reliance on animals. Aside from our daily experience, we learn about animals in school, but unless we end up majoring in biology very few of us go through the trouble of learning about these creatures on a deeper and more systematic level.

In "The Animal Kingdom: A Very Short Introduction" Peter Holland takes us on a journey of rediscovery of animals in all of their fascinating glory. This book can challenge and radically transform one's understanding of what is meant by the word "animal." It turns out that animals are much more diverse and heterogeneous than what most of us suspect. There are estimated millions of species of animals out there, and we'll probably never get a full catalog of them. Like with all other branches of the tree of life, most animals are extremely small or microscopic, live in regions far away from human habitats, and engage in lifestyles that make them extremely hard to detect and study. Even with the known species of animals, the process of categorization and classification can be extremely daunting. For the most of human history, including the past couple of centuries of rapid scientific progress, animals had been categorized in terms of their gross physiological features. This sort of classification worked more or less well for the larger species, but for some smaller ones it created a lot of puzzles. All of this has changed with the advent of DNA analysis which has put the task of animal classification on a much more rigorous footing. DNA analysis has brought about many interesting surprises, and it has shed the new light on the evolution of animals. Thanks to the combination of DNA analysis and some older techniques today we can classify animals into about 33 different phyla. Most of these phyla are completely unknown to anyone but the specialized biologists, and this very short introduction tries to shed some light on at least some of them.

One of the most wonderful aspects of this little book is that it always tries to keep the big picture in mind. Its aim is to offer understanding, and not just a dry recitation of various animals, species, and phyla. This approach is invaluable and makes even a book that is filled with recondite classification jargon extremely accessible and even fun to read. The evolution of animal life is one of the nature's greatest adventure stories, and Holland manages to convey much of its excitement. It was very hard for me to put this book down, and I found myself reaching for Wikipedia more often than not in order to find out more about some truly amazing animal species. This is definitely one of the best very short introduction books, and one of my favorite overall popular science books. Anyone who has a desire to understand the diversity of animal life will greatly benefit from going through this short and accessible resource.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
wide ranging, insightful and a pleasure to read 12 May 2013
By Nigel Kirk - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Like so many of the VSI series, this book has a fresh and informative style that allows the assimilation of cascade of information to be a pleasant experience. The definition of an animal is approached from a modern viewpoint with an important and interesting emphasis on epithelial cells sheets. A classification of the animal kingdom uses historical perspectives on bilateralism and coeloms to explain the most modern synthesis of animals into the basal phyla, the Lophotrochozoa, the Ecdysozoa and the Deuterostomia. This derives from the latest molecular evidence, an area where Holland is expert, and provides a lucid and engaging introduction. Holland then works methodically through these super-phyla.

Working through the super-phyla inevitably requires a degree of listing. Many of the listings are accompanied by key points of interest: the emergence of the ubiquitous homeobox region in the genome of the Bilateria; the deep sea pogonophoran worm's troposome organ which allows chemosynthesis of hydrogen sulphide; uric acid storage in the wings of Pieris butterflies; a little story about nematomorph horse-hair worms that answered a perennial question from my childhood; and an evolutionary explanation for temperature dependent sex determination in the Tasmanian Snow Skink - these are but a few of the enlightening points which punctuate this survey of the animal kingdom. Holland's extensive walk-through of the whole kingdom necessarily leaves only twenty pages to cover the terrestrial deuterostomes with which we are familiar from day to day. Perhaps there is scope for a VSI on the vertebrates. The Further Reading and Index are both helpful.

Holland achieves a thorough and insightful exposition on some complex topics which is often beyond expensive text books. It is a must-read for biology students and those who wish to refresh their knowledge of zoological classification through an inspiring VSI.
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