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105 of 108 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a truly great book!
(from my amazon.com review)

This is the most enjoyable book I've read on evolution since Gould's fine Wonderful Life. Shubin not only combines great skills in paleontology and anatomy with an insatiable curiosity, but he also has a rare gift at writing as well. The book looks at aspects of human anatomy and senses--hands, smell, hearing, vision, etc--and traces...
Published on 24 Jan. 2008 by David W. Straight

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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An accessible exposition, not quite chewy enough for me.
Shubin's team spent several summers in the frozen north looking for fossils of creatures that were evolving to live on land. Ultimately they discovered an exciting fossil called Tiktaalik, whose skull is flat like a reptile's and whose limbs begin to resemble those of many lineages, including mammals and thus humans. After describing this expedition and the predictive...
Published on 9 July 2011 by Jason Mills


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Adventures with Bones, 12 Nov. 2010
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This review is from: Your Inner Fish: The amazing discovery of our 375-million-year-old ancestor (Paperback)
Have you ever wondered why you have five fingers and not ten? What developed earlier, teeth or toes? Cutting edge research never creeps into school books until it is about 50 years old, peer approved all round and actually an old hat for the people who made the discoveries. This book on evolutionary biology is therefore like the super-interesting anatomy lesson you could never have had at school - yet.
The palaeontologist Neil Shubin, lucky discoverer of "Tiktaalik", a fossil fish capable of press-ups, takes you right into the arctic, enticing you into his world of laboratory, desert and deep time in such a lucid and intelligent fashion that you wish you would be right out there, digging rocks.
The recent collaboration between geneticists and palaeontologists has shed new light on a whole range of phenomena from the structure of your inner ear to the transition of animals from water to land. Here you can discover how fossils and genetics are connected, gaining an astonishing insight into the way we are related to all living things.
Taking into account polar bear attacks as a real possibility a palaeontologist has to contend with, you might actually really enjoy reading all this in your armchair.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An accessible exposition, not quite chewy enough for me., 9 July 2011
By 
Jason Mills "jason10801" (Accrington, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Your Inner Fish: The amazing discovery of our 375-million-year-old ancestor (Paperback)
Shubin's team spent several summers in the frozen north looking for fossils of creatures that were evolving to live on land. Ultimately they discovered an exciting fossil called Tiktaalik, whose skull is flat like a reptile's and whose limbs begin to resemble those of many lineages, including mammals and thus humans. After describing this expedition and the predictive methodology that told them where to look, Shubin uses Tiktaalik as the launch-pad for comparing elements of our own anatomy with their predecessors in ancestral species. We learn, for instance, how the jaw-bones of reptiles became the tiny bones of our inner ears, and how the hiccup derives from an ill-placed nerve we inherited from fish and a respiratory gulping action still seen in tadpoles.

It is, then, a book about homologies; yet it's telling that that word does not appear in the text. Though the author plainly knows his stuff, this book is perhaps pitched a little too low for its likely audience. I encountered plenty of details that were new to me, but few fresh ideas. Contrast this with, say, Nick Lane's "Life Ascending", which delves deep enough to continually surprise the reader with natural selection's 'blind ingenuity'. Where that book was a full meal, Shubin's feels more like a light lunch.

Nonetheless, it does a good job at its own level. It's very well illustrated, wide-ranging and thoroughly accessible, even chatty: I found the writing at its most engaging when Shubin was describing field-work. My paperback edition includes an afterword written a year after the hardback, updating a few items. There's also notes-cum-bibliography and index.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read and a good gift book, 14 Oct. 2011
This review is from: Your Inner Fish: The amazing discovery of our 375-million-year-old ancestor (Paperback)
If you've never read a book about evolution and/or palaeontology in the popular science genre, this would be a good place to start.

If you've already read several such books, you'll probably still find interesting things that you didn't already know.

If you know anyone who doesn't believe in evolution or who says "well, maybe, but where's the missing link?", this would make an excellent gift because the evidence presented here about fish, humans, and various intermediate creatures speaks for itself. For this purpose, it might even be better than books by Dawkins because Shubin isn't pugnacious and only explicitly mentions the concept of descent with modification near the end of the book. By then, intelligent readers not already familiar with this concept should have started to get the idea for themselves.

I do have two quibbles about this book. Firstly, it keeps jumping between descriptions of scientific discoveries and tales of the involvement of the author and his colleagues in those discoveries. Of course, it's important to know how scientists make their discoveries as well as what they have discovered, in order to be able to judge the credibility of the findings. But I would prefer the method to be explained in a more impersonal way, for consistency of tone.

Secondly, more detail is needed in some places. Clearly, the author wants to keep it simple in order to appeal to newbies, and this is a laudable aim. But I think that there are a few places where the addition of just a little bit more background information might actually make it easier for newbies to follow the discussion (for example, in the section on mitochondria). Nonetheless, I think that most people will get the gist and much of the detail.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A journey worth taking repeatedly., 2 Jun. 2008
By 
J. Sherburn - See all my reviews
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The only complaint I could have about this book is the length, I was hoping that the size was deceiving or that the book would continue to write itself as I read on. Neil Shubin writes with passion and clarity, illuminating two separate fields which merge together to mould modern evolutionary thinking. He elucidates difficult concepts with finesse, providing stimulating reading for a wide audience.

The opening chapters are an excellent introduction to field palaeontology and its predictive capability, turning a subject often associated with dusty fossils and haughty professors into one of fascination and awe. From there he leads us into the relationship of the genome with what we see in these fossils, in our trips to the zoo and in our own bodies. Shubin makes these diverse fields tangible to the layman, weaving them together effortlessly and presenting the intricacies of life for all to marvel in. This book filled many gaps in my knowledge and I feel I will never look at my body the same way, the effect of this book is profound.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book on evolution since the selfish gene, 27 April 2009
This review is from: Your Inner Fish: The amazing discovery of our 375-million-year-old ancestor (Paperback)
Mr Shubin has holistically wound together the many strands of palentolgy, genetics, and anatomy, to bring us a unified picture of evolution beautifully illustrated by the countless images used throughout the book.

I can't give this book justice with this review, but suffice to say that most chapters contain a WOW moment where cobwebs in your brain are brushed away.

Excellent material for fighting the good fight (ie, against creationalism).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read, 18 Feb. 2011
This review is from: Your Inner Fish: The amazing discovery of our 375-million-year-old ancestor (Paperback)
This is a great little book that examines humanity's ancient ancestors. No we are not descended from monkeys (I hate it when I hear that), if you go far enough backwards we have rather more fishy ancestors. And Shubin describes the fossil of the creature that stands between the fish and the first land living creatures. I did enjoy reading about the discovery of the fossil in the Arctic, which gives you an insight into the life of a Paleontologist.

Equally intruiging are the sections on genes, especially the Sonic Hedgehog gene. Shubin actually does have lab experience and so his insights into this aspect are fascinating. He goes on to describe our fishy origins and how we got our basic body plan, teeth, ears and vision from primitive ancestors etc. The best thing are the crystal clear images which makes his points come alive.

Well worth a read!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended, 19 Oct. 2010
By 
S. Zacharias "5telios" (Athens, Greece) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Your Inner Fish: The amazing discovery of our 375-million-year-old ancestor (Paperback)
Not bad at all. Probably a great introduction to those completely unaware, while at the same time a well thought out collection of origin stories for those wishing to pass on the knowledge but lack the presence of mind to properly collect their thoughts together.

The text alternates between adventure story mode, along the lines of some of Fortey's work describing field-work (complete with arctic escapades and rising tides), and arguments based on very accessibly written DNA and molecular analysis.

I would have preferred Shubin to call a spade a spade and talk about his subject openly rather than beating around the "descent with modification" bush, but I expect this is to allow the book to be published in a country like the USA where the word evolution is anathema.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lightweight but worthwhile, 3 Oct. 2008
By 
Steve Keen "therealus" (Herts, UK) - See all my reviews
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Whilst always very readable, there's something just a little unsatisfying about Neil Shubin's exploration of the evolution of the body up to the one currently occupied by homo sapiens. I think ultimately because it comes over as a little too lightweight, even though the subject is overwhelmingly big.

Nevertheless, there is no denying, ultimately, the level of fascination in the material.

It is, of course, not always comforting to find that, once analysed, human beings are based on the same blueprint as any other animal with a head (and anus, as it happens - Shubin seems to take delight in repeating the word) and some without, where mouth and anus (there it is again!) combine, as in the sea anemone.

Through words and pictures the author demonstrates the similarities between your nearest and dearest and sharks, salamanders, flies and all sorts of other creatures you normally wouldn't be inviting to a family reunion. There's an inevitable quantity of technical vocabulary, but it's never in torrents so it never overwhelms.

So whilst a trifle unsatisfactory as heavyweight Natural History, the book has more than enough going for it to recommend it to the general reader.

Post Script

Some way through the book I will admit to reflecting on first its potential as a treatise on evolution, but then second on the potential it holds for the Intelligent Design lobby - basic blueprint, materials reuse, continuous development.

Shubin doesn't tackle this, which is a shame; I'm reminded of the misuse of Nietzsche under different circumstances and wonder at the naïveté of it all. The ID myth is, of course, nothing more than that, but why give it a potential scientific credence?

A brief check confirms that Shubin is in the evolutionary camp, but that does not dispel some of the ambiguity of Inner Fish, with mentions of the Creator (his capital), no small amount of teleology (suggesting on a number of occasions that species determined for themselves in what direction to develop), and the suggestion that a basic "design" "arose" rather than that a pattern evolved - incredibly there is not much mention of the word "evolution".

In a period during which the forces of reaction are trying their best to roll back the gains of evolutionary science in dispelling superstition, it seems irresponsible to provide them with an open goal.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars basic comparative biology goes chatty, 22 Jan. 2011
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This review is from: Your Inner Fish: The amazing discovery of our 375-million-year-old ancestor (Paperback)
It's hard to find a good balance between everyday language and scientific terminology, between explaining too much and not enough, between making it fun (in case your audience is scared of science?) and wasting too many words round the edges.

I think this was a fairly good attempt. Perhaps Shubin could have tried just a little less hard to please. His topic is fascinating, the facts stunning and well presented. If he had left them to speak for themselves, the impact would have been stronger.

That said, and although I sometimes wished he would get on with it, the anecdotes were well chosen and provided a good view of the excitement involved in field paleontology and scientific discovery in general. Overall, a good read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read, up there with the best of 'em, 4 Aug. 2008
By 
Newbonic (Yorkshire, England.) - See all my reviews
I've read quite a few books on evolution from the like of Dawkins and Andrew Parker and this is up there with the best of them. Makes me wish I did biology at uni instead of materials science!
A great read both for the story about the fossil collecting expeditions, and general evolution.
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