On Methuselah's Trail: Living Fossils and the Great Extinctions

Overview

Scattered throughout the earth are some extraordinarily persistent species. Their evolutionary contemporaries were wiped out millions of years ago, yet these "living fossils" endure, virtually unchanged. How did they, and do they, survive? On Methuselah's Trail goes on location to find out. Travelling around the world, Peter Ward examines the lives of horseshoe crabs, nautiluses, crocodiles, magnolias, and other evolutionary anachronisms, offering an exciting portrayal of ...
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Overview

Scattered throughout the earth are some extraordinarily persistent species. Their evolutionary contemporaries were wiped out millions of years ago, yet these "living fossils" endure, virtually unchanged. How did they, and do they, survive? On Methuselah's Trail goes on location to find out. Travelling around the world, Peter Ward examines the lives of horseshoe crabs, nautiluses, crocodiles, magnolias, and other evolutionary anachronisms, offering an exciting portrayal of science at work in the field.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Living fossils are species that have survived nearly unchanged since prehistoric times. For scientists they are a window to the past. Ward, an expert on the nautilus, tells us a fascinating story of scientific discovery through a combination of personal narratives and examples of how the study of living creatures helps to interpret the fossil record. Some of the episodes are even dramatic, like the discovery of the lobe-finned coelacanth that had been thought to be extinct also recounted in Keith Stewart Thomson's Living Fossil , LJ 5/15/91, or Ward's struggle to save a living nautilus for an aquarium. In Wonderful Life ( LJ 9/1/89), Stephen Jay Gould made the point that it is impossible to guess from fossils alone which creatures would survive to the present and which would become extinct. The study of ``Methuselahs'' such as brachiopods or horseshoe crabs shows how different sets of circumstances allowed a few species to endure. Good, entertaining popular science.-- Amy Brunvand, Fort Lewis Coll. Lib., Durango, Col.
Booknews
Darwin coined the phrase "living fossils" to describe animals or plants that have existed in the same form for millions of years and are the sole survivors of geologically ancient categories of life. Scientist-adventurer Ward reports on his favorites, on his adventures in the field in search of them, and on the insights they might provide into the workings of evolution. Lacks a bibliography. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780716724889
  • Publisher: Freeman, W. H. & Company
  • Publication date: 4/28/1993
  • Pages: 228
  • Product dimensions: 6.04 (w) x 8.72 (h) x 0.61 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword ix
1 Introduction: The Phenomenon of Living Fossils 1
2 The Advent of Skeletons: The Brachiopods 23
3 Before Modern Predation: The Flat Clams 61
4 The Kraken Wakes: Nautilus and the Rise of the Ammonites 75
5 Death of the Polypi: Nautilus and the Last Ammonites 103
6 Timeless Design: The Horseshoe Crabs 135
7 The First Spring: Plants Invade the Land 151
8 Out of the Ooze: The Lobe-fins 175
Envoi 203
Acknowledgments 208
Index 209
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