The Monkey's Voyage: How Improbable Journeys Shaped the History of Life [NOOK Book]

Overview


How did species wind up where they are today? Scientists have long conjectured that plants and animals dispersed throughout the world by drifting on large landmasses as they broke up, but in The Monkey’s Voyage, biologist Alan de Queiroz offers a radical new theory that displaces this passive view. He describes how species as diverse as monkeys, baobab trees, and burrowing lizards made incredible long-distance ocean crossings: pregnant animals and wind-blown plants rode rafts and icebergs and even stowed away on...
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The Monkey's Voyage: How Improbable Journeys Shaped the History of Life

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Overview


How did species wind up where they are today? Scientists have long conjectured that plants and animals dispersed throughout the world by drifting on large landmasses as they broke up, but in The Monkey’s Voyage, biologist Alan de Queiroz offers a radical new theory that displaces this passive view. He describes how species as diverse as monkeys, baobab trees, and burrowing lizards made incredible long-distance ocean crossings: pregnant animals and wind-blown plants rode rafts and icebergs and even stowed away on the legs of sea-going birds to create the map of life we see today. In the tradition of John McPhee's Basin and Range and David Quammen's The Song of the Dodo, The Monkey’s Voyage is a beautifully told narrative of a profound investigation into the importance of contingency in history and the nature of scientific discovery.
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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Jonathan Weiner
…entertaining…De Queiroz writes in a pleasant, relaxed style.
Publishers Weekly
10/28/2013
Biogeography, the study of the geographical distribution of living things, has been of interest since at least the time of the Greeks. In his entertaining and enlightening book, evolutionary biologist de Queiroz demonstrates that despite this longstanding interest in the subject, the discipline has resisted an organizing paradigm. De Queiroz comprehensively describes the shift, beginning in the 1970s and 1980s, from Darwin’s belief that long-distance dispersal was the dominant explanation for biogeographic patterns to the rise of those promoting vicariance—the belief that environmental fragmentation is responsible for observed patterns—and back again to promoting long distance dispersal. He cogently describes the science underlying these ideas, the nature of continental drift, the complexity of molecular clocks, and the mathematics of cladistics, explaining why he believes the only reasonable interpretation for current data is an acceptance of rare, long-distance dispersal events that can only be called “mysterious” and “miraculous,” including the book’s eponymous monkeys accidentally crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Beyond the actual science, de Queiroz brings insight into the nature of scientific discourse itself. B&w figures throughout. (Jan.)
From the Publisher

A New York Times Editor's Choice

“[A] lively book…his tale of how the world was populated willy-nilly—and of our own fumbling attempts to understand it—makes for a splendid intellectual history.”
Wall Street Journal

“[An] entertaining book…. De Queiroz writes in a pleasant, relaxed style…. It reads like an eclectic scrapbook, full of interesting bits from hither and yon.”
New York Times Book Review

“Lucidly and captivatingly written, [de Queiroz’s] narrative merges snapshots from his personal perspective with detailed descriptions of key players from the past two centuries, their characters, and lives—as if the author knew them personally…we found The Monkey’s Voyage a joy to read and a great example of how a potentially dry scientific debate can be presented to attract a broad readership.”
Science

“In his engaging new book, The Monkey’s Voyage, de Queiroz makes the case that the vibrant and distinctive biological communities we see today were created by organisms rafting across oceans and soaring through the atmosphere.”
Washington Post

The Monkey’s Voyage is a captivating look at one of biogeography’s most puzzling problems, with just the right balance between science and scientific drama.”
Science News

“Specialists and nonspecialists alike will enjoy de Queiroz's quirky, personable style and wide-ranging examples.”
–Chronicle of Higher Education

“(Alan de Queiroz) delights in telling the tales of extraordinary journeys by unlikely critters – snakes, frogs, flightless birds and even monkeys – and with these tales he reveals ‘a world shaped by miracles.’”
Times Higher Education Supplement (UK)

“Thoroughly engrossing”
Maclean’s (Canada)

“Entertaining and enlightening … Beyond the actual science, de Queiroz brings insight into the nature of scientific discourse itself.”
Publishers Weekly

“A story full of intriguing discoveries that de Queiroz, a fluent and spellbinding popular-science writer, agglomerates into the narrative spine of a book brimming with fascination.”
Booklist, starred review

“A fascinating exploration of the field of biogeography… An excellent storyteller, de Queiroz dramatically weaves the historical development of various scientific tropes—continental drift, plate tectonics, molecular dating, and mass extinctions—together with his own research interests and details of his far-flung travels…[A] provocative book.”
Library Journal, starred review

“Just how plants and animals separated by oceans have reached other continents, whether by riding on shifting tectonic plates or by their own long-distance travel, is not only a basic question of biogeography but of life on earth. De Queiroz discusses the issue brilliantly and in delightfully lucid prose…The Monkey’s Voyage is the most fascinating and intriguing evolutionary drama I have read in a long time. I recommend the book highly to all who like scientific mysteries and have an interest in our planet.”
–George Schaller, field biologist, winner of the National Book Award, and author of The Serengeti Lion

“I have read it [The Monkey’s Voyage] more or less straight through being unable to put it down easily. It is a rare mix such as we had in Steve Gould of brilliant science and great narrative ability.”
–Robin Fox, Professor at Rutgers University, and author of The Imperial Animal

“Authoritative and eloquent, The Monkey’s Voyage provides a revolutionary new look at the history of life on Earth. Drawing from his own and others’ research, de Queiroz tells an exuberant tale of organisms thumbing their collective noses over the eons at the perceived scientific wisdom by doing what had been deemed patently impossible, from monkeys crossing roiling oceans to root-bound plants journeying thousands of miles over sea and land to end up on the tippity tops of unclimbable summits. As de Queiroz reveals, these unexpected travelers have time and again changed the face of the landscapes into which they fall, one unbelievable journey after another, forever altering the grand course of the evolution of life.”
Carol Kaesuk Yoon, author of Naming Nature: The Clash Between Instinct and Science

“Alan de Queiroz begins The Monkey’s Voyage hoping his children will understand the nuances of biogeography. Then he writes precisely the kind of book that will explain it to them, and to the rest of us. Clear and compelling throughout, de Queiroz explores the science behind an age-old question, why do plants and animals occur where they do? He makes a strong case that oceans can be highways as well as barriers. A great read.”
Thor Hanson, author of Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle

"Fascinating book."
Choice

Library Journal
★ 02/01/2014
Evolutionary biologist de Queiroz (adjunct faculty, Univ. of Nevada, Reno) presents a fascinating exploration of the field of biogeography—the study of the distribution of living things—and one of its most fundamental concerns: What explains the presence of closely related lineages on land masses separated by oceans or seas? According to de Queiroz, two schools of thought have battled for decades about the answer, one claiming that these species are ancient "relicts" of the breakup of the Mesozoic supercontinent Gondwana and the other arguing that all sorts of plants and animals have actually crossed ocean barriers, in some cases floating on mats of vegetation. He concludes with a discussion of how such chance events as ocean crossings can have massive effects on the diversification of life forms. An excellent storyteller, de Queiroz dramatically weaves the historical development of various scientific tropes—continental drift, plate tectonics, molecular dating, and mass extinctions—together with his own research interests and details of his far-flung travels. VERDICT This provocative book will appeal to fans of the late paleontologist and evolutionary scientist Stephen Jay Gould's writing (e.g., Wonderful Life) and to nonspecialists interested in the long history of life on Earth.—Cynthia Lee Knight, formerly with Hunterdon Cty. Lib., Flemington, NJ
Kirkus Reviews
2013-10-28
An evolutionary biologist disputes the hegemonic theory of how animals have populated the planet, challenging prevailing assumptions about the time frame in which species separations necessarily occurred. De Queiroz suggests that in many instances, species, migration has occurred much more recently than has been commonly accepted. He and his associates have taken advantage of modern methods of genetic sequencing to improve on previous estimates. They have refined the notion of a molecular clock--previously dependent on retrieving DNA from fossils and correlating this with geological evidence--to determine the evolution of new species more accurately by estimating the rate of mutation separating the genomes of presently related species. He cites his own studies of related species of garter snakes and similar research on monkeys, which indicate that they evolved over a much shorter time span. At the time, when these land-based species began to evolve independently (presumably because their habitats had diverged), there were no continental connections, such as land bridges, to account for their migrations. The author collected garter snakes from two species found on opposite sides of the wide Sea of Cortez. After sequencing their mitochondrial genes, he determined that they would have separated approximately a few hundred thousand years ago rather than the generally accepted estimate of 4 million years ago. Therefore, he suggests--judging by ocean currents and winds--that one or more snakes must have traveled from the mainland over a 120-mile sea by clinging to a naturally formed raft. Other recent genetic studies of two similar monkey species lend credibility to the author's unlikely hypothesis that such ocean crossings can account for long-distance colonization, despite the statistical improbability. De Queiroz disputes scientific theories based on outdated evidence and offers an in-depth critique of intelligent design. An intriguing window into the ongoing academic debate about evolution.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465069767
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 1/7/2014
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 146,423
  • File size: 19 MB
  • Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

Meet the Author


Alan de Queiroz is an expert on biogeography and evolution. An adjunct professor of biology at the University of Nevada, Reno, he is the author of a much-cited cover article on ocean crossings in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution. He lives in Reno, Nevada.
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