Neptune's Ark: From Ichthyosaurs to Orcas / Edition 1

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Neptune's Ark illuminates the dramatic saga of evolution spanning 500 million years of marine life along the magnificent Pacific coast of western North America.
In an engaging narrative that artfully blends elements of science, history, folklore, and personal observation, renowned naturalist David Rains Wallace reveals a marvelous diversity of creatures, not only modern ones, but those from the far prehistoric past. Mysterious forms have abounded—from giant sea cows, oyster bears, and flightless toothed birds to the orcas, elephant seals, and sea otters of modern times. Wallace tells a story about evolution as well as a tale of the storms, scurvy, and shipwrecks that plagued the coast's explorers, naturalists, and scientists, many of whom led turbulent or tragic lives, with themes reflected in the wonder and danger of the coast itself. Neptune's Ark is full of vivid characters—from explorers like Sir Francis Drake and Captain James Cook, to pioneer naturalists including Georg Steller and Charles Scammon, to early paleontologists Othniel Marsh and Edward Cope, and to recent scientists and ecological visionaries.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Naturalist Wallace (Beasts of Eden: Walking Whales, Dawn Horses, and Other Enigmas of Mammal Evolution) here turns to evolution along the Pacific coast of North America. The diversity of the creatures he reveals is broader than the title implies-included are seals, whales, salmon, gulls, bears, otters, and "sea apes." Following the narrative can be difficult, partly because of the large number of species discussed (the index will be useful in tracking different species). Explorers James Cook and Francis Drake, naturalists Georg Steller and Charles Scammon, paleontologists Edward Cope and Othniel Marsh, and Douglas Emlong, an amateur with an amazing talent for finding fossils, thread through the book. Both Richard Ellis's Aquagenesis: The Origin and Evolution of Life in the Seaand Carl Zimmer's At the Water's Edge: Macroevolution and the Transformation of Lifefocus more on the evolution of strictly marine species. Wallace's research, as always, is strong, with good notes and a good bibliography. For academic and research libraries with an interest in paleontology. (Index not seen.)
—Jean E. Crampon

The California Territorial Quarterly
“Wallace’s easy-going style, mixing personal adventures with textbook science, makes paleontology as readable as narrative history.”
Mammalia - Evelyne Bremond-Hoslet
“A fascinating narrative of adventures from the pioneer naturalists to modern scientists.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520258143
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 9/18/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

David Rains Wallace is the author of sixteen books, including Beasts of Eden: Walking Whales, Dawn Horses, and Other Enigmas of Mammal Evolution (UC Press), A New York Times Notable Book; The Klamath Knot: Explorations of Myth and Evolution (Twentieth Anniversary Edition, UC Press), winner of the John Burroughs Medal; The Bonehunter's Revenge: Dinosaurs, Greed, and the Greatest Scientific Feud of the Gilded Age; and The Monkey's Bridge: Mysteries of Evolution in Central America, A New York Times Notable Book.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Prologue. Steller’s Sea Ape

1 / Reefs in the Desert
2 / Amphibious Ambiguities
3 / Bird Teeth and Reptile Necks
4 / Tail Tales
5 / Cope’s Elusive Ophidians
6 / Hooves into Flippers
7 / Marsh’s Deceptive Desmostylians
8 / Emlong’s Whale
9 / Paws into Flippers
10 / Sea Cows and Oyster Bears
11 / The Long, Warm Summer
12 / Emptying Bays
13 / Punctuated Pinnipeds and Darwinian Sirenians
14 / Advent of Autumn
15 / Ice Age
16 / Hands into Paddles
17 / Pileated Woodpecker’s Boat
18 / The End of the Earth
19 / An
20 /
Intimations of Communication

Epilogue. The Old Man of the Sea



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