Living Fossil; The Story of the Coelacanth

Overview

"An engrossing tale of obsession, adventure and scientific reasoning." —Betty Ann Kevles, Los Angeles Times
In the winter of 1938, a fishing boat by chance dragged from the Indian Ocean a fish thought extinct for 70 million years. It was a coelacanth, which thrived concurrently with dinosaurs and pterodactyls—an animal of major importance to those who study the history of vertebrate life.Living Fossil describes the life and habitat of the coelcanth and what scientists have learned about it during fifty years of ...

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Living Fossil: The Story of the Coelacanth

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Overview

"An engrossing tale of obsession, adventure and scientific reasoning." —Betty Ann Kevles, Los Angeles Times
In the winter of 1938, a fishing boat by chance dragged from the Indian Ocean a fish thought extinct for 70 million years. It was a coelacanth, which thrived concurrently with dinosaurs and pterodactyls—an animal of major importance to those who study the history of vertebrate life.Living Fossil describes the life and habitat of the coelcanth and what scientists have learned about it during fifty years of research. It is an exciting and very human story, filled with ambitious and brilliant people, that reveals much about the practice of modern science.

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Editorial Reviews

James D. Ebert
“Authoritative and eminently readable, deserving of a wide audience.”
James Ferrell - New York Times Book Review
“[A] fantastic fish story. . . . [Thomson] successfully snags the reader's attention.”
Edward O. Wilson
“One of the classic stories of zoology, told with uncommon authority and grace.”
George D. Langdon
“A marvelous book describing the discovery of the coelacanth and its importance to evolutionary biology. . . . Fascinating reading for scientist and non-scientist alike.”
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The 1938 discovery of a strange, five-foot, 250-pound fish off the coast of South Africa excited the scientific community worldwide. Identified as Latimeria chalumnae , a coelacanth, the fish was previously known only in the fossil record of the Cretaceous period. In 1952 a second specimen was caught in the western Indian Ocean off the Comoro Islands, then a French territory. The authorities allowed only French scientists access to the fish, but after the islands' independence in the mid-'70s, the fish became more widely available for research. Thomson, director of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, studied the first fresh-frozen specimen and has written an intriguing biological detective story, tracing the coelacanth's morphology and biology, and placing it in the evolutionary scale. Illustrations. June
Library Journal
The study of coelacanths, the ``living fossils'' of the popular press, provides an ideal opportunity for examining various facets of scientific research itself. Thomson does an admirable job of using the 1938 discovery of a fish thought to be extinct for 70 million years and the subsequent collection and examination of this remarkable species to track the research process and the influence of such variables as personality and nationality. The importance of the coelacanth to the study of evolution is clearly presented for general readers (except for the discussion of the intricacies of fish classification). But this shortcoming does not preclude a recommendation for this book, which should prove popular in general and specialized science collections.-- Susan Klimley, Columbia Univ. Libs.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393308686
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 7/28/1992
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 254
  • Sales rank: 1,049,753
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Keith S. Thomson holds a Ph.D. in biology from Harvard University and is a former dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Yale University. He is now CEO of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.

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