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Platypus
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I read Platypus out of pure interest as I had read a superb book about a similarly anomalous species (the Coelacanth), and wished to learn about how the truth about this remarkable creature had gradually been revealed since it was first discovered,
The Platypus story differs considerably from that of the Coelacanth, however, in that there were so many people who contributed to its story (the Coelacanth tale involves just a handful of people). As the book therefore covers a longer period, and consequently many more personalities are involved, the book tends to concentrate in a fairly detailed way on the specifics of what was discovered at each step rather than tell the tale of the people who made those discoveries.
If you are genuinely interested in learning of the history of the Platypus per se then I would say this book is good. If you are more interested in just reading a book about a significant scientific discovery (without particularly caring what it is) and the people who were involved then there are more interesting books than this.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 14 March 2003
This book displays a great deal of excellent research on behalf of it's author. She managed to bring every aspect of the Platypus's story and display it in a very readable and well structured manor. The author has also managed to portray the world of Eighteen and Nineteeth century natural history and taxonomic classification extremely well and makes the reader realise how controversal the discovery of the Platypus was in a time where the biblical story of the arc and the great flood were widely regarded as fact. The discovery of the platypus put this into question and produced additional questions regarding creation and religion. The toxonomic classification of the Platypus as a transitional species between reptiles and mammals eventually placed it within the mammalians, which suggested that mammals and even humans had evolved from more primative forms and to many people during this period was unthinkable, however true. Anyone interested in the origins of the therory of evolution would do well by reading this publication. Anyone who has an affinity for Australian wildlife or natural history in general should obtain a copy and give it the time it deserves.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The humble platypus, which few have seen in the wild, created more biological debate in the 19th century than any other animal. In the 20th century, observations led to startling new findings about how the platypus reflects advanced evolutionary development.
When I went to Australia, the platypus was on my most-hoped-to-see list. Fortunately, there was a nice habitat in the Sydney zoo that helped me to learn more about them. The platypus uses burrows as its land home, but spends a lot of time in the water. The platypus can consume half its weight a day in live food. To locate that much food, it relies on an advanced electrolocation method involving its duck-like bill. This method is more effective than the sonar-like methods used by other animals.
Well, what is a platypus? First, you notice the duck-like bill. Perhaps a bird? Second, you notice the fur. Perhaps a mammal? Third, you see the webbed feet. Back to bird? Fourth, close examination shows that the platypus has mammary glands. Mammal? Fifth, the platypus lays eggs that are like those of reptiles. Reptile?
These days, the view is that the platypus is a mammal that lays eggs, along with the echidna. But both animals confounded 19th century naturalists before Darwin when Divine Creation was the dominant theory of evolution. Elaborate classification schemes had been developed that traced everything into one neat family or another. The platypus did not fit.
The first specimens were sent back pickled in alcohol to England and later to France, where dissection sparked a continuing debate about whether or not the platypus had mammary glands and whether or not their young could suckle. How the young were born was a complete mystery.
The mystery could have been solved much sooner, but Europeans chose to ignore what Aborigines and Australians told them about the platypus. So European naturalists came and slaughtered thousands, looking for pregnant and ovulating female platypuses.
Attempts to transport platypuses live failed for a long time, as did attempts to maintain them in captivity.
Eventually, observations by European naturalists established the truth. By the time that Darwin wrote The Origin of Species, the platypus had become one of his greatest examples of natural selection. The platypus had kept some reptile-like features while having evolved into a mammal. Little did he know that the bill's sensors would become the strongest evidence for his argument.
The book is well illustrated with many drawings and a few photographs that provide helpful perspective on this little-known creature.
Ms. Moyal does a fine job of giving us a Down Under view of all this. She combines solid science, explained simply, with a subtle wit about the false speculations and plodding methods of pompous, well-respected scientists. You will enjoy what she has to say.
After you finish this fine book, I suggest that you think about where the evidence around you contradicts what you have been told. For example, it is argued that education is very essential for children. What are the things that children learn to do outside of school (like walk, talk, ride a bicycle, develop a moral sense, and sometimes to read) compared to what they learn in school (like sometimes to read, how to use maps, calculate geometry, and do art projects)? What are the implications for how children and adults could learn more?
Look for better examples and answers!
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on 5 September 2014
Quickly dispatched and as described, thanks
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The humble platypus, which few have seen in the wild, created more biological debate in the 19th century than any other animal. In the 20th century, observations led to startling new findings about how the platypus reflects advanced evolutionary development.
When I went to Australia, the platypus was on my most-hoped-to-see list. Fortunately, there was a nice habitat in the Sydney zoo that helped me to learn more about them. The platypus uses burrows as its land home, but spends a lot of time in the water. The platypus can consume half its weight a day in live food. To locate that much food, it relies on an advanced electrolocation method involving its duck-like bill. This method is more effective than the sonar-like methods used by other animals.
Well, what is a platypus? First, you notice the duck-like bill. Perhaps a bird? Second, you notice the fur. Perhaps a mammal? Third, you see the webbed feet. Back to bird? Fourth, close examination shows that the platypus has mammary glands. Mammal? Fifth, the platypus lays eggs that are like those of reptiles. Reptile?
These days, the view is that the platypus is a mammal that lays eggs, along with the echidna. But both animals confounded 19th century naturalists before Darwin when Divine Creation was the dominant theory of evolution. Elaborate classification schemes had been developed that traced everything into one neat family or another. The platypus did not fit.
The first specimens were sent back pickled in alcohol to England and later to France, where dissection sparked a continuing debate about whether or not the platypus had mammary glands and whether or not their young could suckle. How the young were born was a complete mystery.
The mystery could have been solved much sooner, but Europeans chose to ignore what Aborigines and Australians told them about the platypus. So European naturalists came and slaughtered thousands, looking for pregnant and ovulating female platypuses.
Attempts to transport platypuses live failed for a long time, as did attempts to maintain them in captivity.
Eventually, observations by European naturalists established the truth. By the time that Darwin wrote The Origin of Species, the platypus had become one of his greatest examples of natural selection. The platypus had kept some reptile-like features while having evolved into a mammal. Little did he know that the bill's sensors would become the strongest evidence for his argument.
The book is well illustrated with many drawings and a few photographs that provide helpful perspective on this little-known creature.
Ms. Moyal does a fine job of giving us a Down Under view of all this. She combines solid science, explained simply, with a subtle wit about the false speculations and plodding methods of pompous, well-respected scientists. You will enjoy what she has to say.
After you finish this fine book, I suggest that you think about where the evidence around you contradicts what you have been told. For example, it is argued that education is very essential for children. What are the things that children learn to do outside of school (like walk, talk, ride a bicycle, develop a moral sense, and sometimes to read) compared to what they learn in school (like sometimes to read, how to use maps, calculate geometry, and do art projects)? What are the implications for how children and adults could learn more?
Look for better examples and answers!
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