Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year-History of the Human Body

Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year-History of the Human Body

4.2 85
by Neil Shubin

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ISBN-10: 0375424474

ISBN-13: 9780375424472

Pub. Date: 01/15/2008

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Why do we look the way we do? What does the human hand have in common with the wing of a fly? Are breasts, sweat glands, and scales connected in some way? To better understand the inner workings of our bodies and to trace the origins of many of today's most common diseases, we have to turn to unexpected sources: worms, flies, and even fish.

Neil Shubin, a


Why do we look the way we do? What does the human hand have in common with the wing of a fly? Are breasts, sweat glands, and scales connected in some way? To better understand the inner workings of our bodies and to trace the origins of many of today's most common diseases, we have to turn to unexpected sources: worms, flies, and even fish.

Neil Shubin, a leading paleontologist and professor of anatomy who discovered Tiktaalik—the "missing link" that made headlines around the world in April 2006—tells the story of evolution by tracing the organs of the human body back millions of years, long before the first creatures walked the earth. By examining fossils and DNA, Shubin shows us that our hands actually resemble fish fins, our head is organized like that of a long-extinct jawless fish, and major parts of our genome look and function like those of worms and bacteria.

Shubin makes us see ourselves and our world in a completely new light. Your Inner Fish is science writing at its finest—enlightening, accessible, and told with irresistible enthusiasm.

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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5.70(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.10(d)

Table of Contents

Preface     ix
Finding Your Inner Fish     3
Getting a Grip     28
Handy Genes     44
Teeth Everywhere     60
Getting Ahead     81
The Best-Laid (Body) Plans     97
Adventures in Bodybuilding     116
Making Scents     139
Vision     148
Ears     158
The Meaning of It All     173
Epilogue     199
Notes, References, and Further Reading     203
Acknowledgments     215
Index     219

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Your Inner Fish 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 85 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Dr. Schubin has truly succeeded in tracing a fun and informative account of human evolution by looking at fossil and extant homologues. Drawing (especially) from paleontology, but also from fields such as molecular genetics, Schubin takes the reader on an introductory ride through vertebrate form, function, and genetics. I would highly recommend this title as a must-have to any person interested in the biological, medical, or paleontological sciences, whether professional or avocational.
Tunguz More than 1 year ago
Among many reasons that make evolution of life such a fascinating subject to study, the fact that we can learn more about how we humans have become what we are today must rank close to the top. This is the basic premise behind Neil Shubin's "Your Inner Fish." Shubin's day job is field paleontologist, but the idea for this book came about when he taught some laboratory exercises in human anatomy. It turns out that his training in recognizing and categorizing bones of long-extinct creatures is an excellent preparation for understanding of how the human body works. The book is a fascinating and insightful journey into the 3.5 billion years of evolution. It combines scientific facts and information with personal stories and anecdotes. The scientific information is fresh and relevant, and it is not just a regurgitation of the material that can be found in a myriad other books on evolution. These facts really help you with gaining insight into how exactly all life on Earth is related. The last major chapter is probably the most interesting. It is an examination of the way that many of our chronic diseases and illnesses can be traced to the very restricted design options that evolution had. There really is a price that we pay for getting to where we are in the evolutionary development.
owl484 More than 1 year ago
A very good book. Well written. The author makes a good case of connecting with our past(500 million years ago as a fish) As a human being it is good to know that "Natural Selection" is a feasible cause and affect than a belief in a myth. I'm ready for a more realistic interpretation of how I came to be,even if it means in updating of my personal beliefs.
wisdomloverPA More than 1 year ago
This small-sized book teaches many of the key aspects of evolution by focusing features of you and me, like our hands and eyes and necks, and shows how they developed over the millennia from more ancient critters, not just earlier mammals or vertebrates but all the way back to bacteria. A really fun book to read, and nonetheless solidly accurate and never over-simplifying complex issues.
Miguel Anguiano More than 1 year ago
This book is not about faith please put that behind you and you enjoy it.
CalBear2010 More than 1 year ago
The prominent University of Chicago Paleontologist and Professor of Anatomy Neil Shubin graciously narrates the long Geological journey that has led to the structure and function of our current biological system. Shubin's account of his discovery of the 375 million year fish from Ellesmere Island is a warm tale of modern science in one of its finest lights. The timeline he provides of the 375 million years passed since Tiktaalik is thoroughly engaging and bound to have any curious reader interested in our life history and common ancestry hooked until the end. Shubin's work is certain to enlighten all. Scientist or non-scientist, you will learn something new, and at the very least you are destined to gain a greater appreciate of life!
AnnieBM More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderfully written and engaging book which takes one on a paleontologist's journey to undersrtand the human body. The story line of discovery is quite enganging and the writing is basic and accessible to general readers yet makes accurate connections to recent discoveries and work. I highly recommend this book as essential reading for those who have a human body or know any human bodies. For Human Anatomy and Physiology students: it is a great way to quiz yourself!
Guest More than 1 year ago
A fascinating read that really makes you think. So interesting to see an esteemed scientist like Shubin taking on this subject so successfully, getting into the nitty gritty of what evolution is and what it is not. The only problem was that at times it could be quite dry and sometimes slow to read. On that note, I just finished another book that also really made me think. NATURAL SELECTION by Dave Freedman. It's a Jurassic Park type book - a science-based action-thriller about the evolution of a new species of flying predator. What made it special - besides how incredibly fast those pages turned - was how fun, relatable and easy-to-understand it made evolution, a great 'fictional compliment' to anything by Shubin.
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GeneticEnthusiast More than 1 year ago
Extremely insightful and worth the read, A wonderful book if you are already well versed in the world of Evolutionary biology or if you just have a basic interest. It is intelligent enough to not spoon feed data to you, but also explained well enough so that anyone who picks it up can read it, I have read several books on Evolution (It is the largest category in my personal library) And this has got to be one of my all time favorites
dwellNC More than 1 year ago
The difficulty with understanding evolution is that you need to read more than one or two books to get a grasp on it. This is one of those books. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Your Inner Fish discusses human evolution by tracing the origins of human bodies back millions of years and showing how we have similarities to many other species. Shubin provides a completely new perspective on our existence and how our world came to be what it is today. In the summer of 2004, Shubin and his colleagues were exploring ancient stream beds of the Arctic Circle when they made they discovered the amazing fossil, which they named Tiktaalik.  This fossil is approximately three-hundred and seventy-five million years old, living in the late Devonian period.  A number of distinctions set this creature apart from any other that had been discovered.  Shubin explains, “Like a fish, it has scales on its back and fins with fin webbing.  But, like early land-living animals, it has a flat head and a neck.” He describes the similarities we have with other species through in the formation of limbs, teeth, and body structure, and the development of smell, vision, and hearing, among other characteristics. On a smaller scale, he discusses DNA and its role in unifying all living creatures.  Shubin uses an analogy of a cake recipe passed from generation to generation to explain the evolution.  He states, “The recipe that builds our bodies has been passed down, and modified, for eons.” We can trace the mutation of genes back through animals and the fossils of past animals to understand how scent genes have occurred and evolved.  Similar stories can be traced for vision and hearing. Ancient fossils studied by paleontologists hold immeasurable information about human evolution. Shubin write, “The real power of this family tree lies in the predictions it allows us to make.” Shubin discusses how our “inner fish” makes us sick. He explains. “Our deep history was spent, at different times, in ancient oceans, small streams, and savannahs, not office buildings, ski slopes, and tennis courts. This disconnect between our past and our human present means that our bodies fall apart in certain predictable ways.” I thought this was a very interesting statement because we could consider a lot of what we do to be unnatural, and that’s not what our bodies have been designed for. Virtually every disease we have has a historical root.  Shubin discusses the reasons for obesity, heart disease, choking, sleep apnea, hernias, and even hiccups. We produce speech using controlled motion of the tongue, larynx, and back of the throat.  Shubin states that this is a relatively small modification from the basic design of mammals and reptiles.  The larynx corresponds to the gill bars of a shark or fish.  However, sleep apnea is a trade-off for the ability to talk. This book provides insight into the many facets of human evolution and explores the “inner fish” in all of us. Shubin succeeds in explaining the evolution of our bodies in a way than any person can follow and appreciate.  I find it amazing how much we can learn from ancient fossils found in rocks that are millions of years old.  Shubin concludes this book quite appropriately, stating, “I can imagine few things more beautiful or intellectually profound than finding the basis for our humanity, and remedies for many of the ills we suffer, nestled inside some of the most humble creatures that have ever lived on our planet.” 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Such an awe-inspiring book. If you know the principles of evolution, you will still be wonderstruck at the beauty of the journey as described by Shubin.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Such an exposition told with great humanity. A page-turner!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Captivating treatise on human evolution. I learned so much about my body, can't wait to read Shubin's latest book. Highly recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was interesting and well structured, i learned several things about how parts our bodies evolved from simpller ancestor forms It flowed so well it was a pleasure to read I Highly recommend it Alan Hickox
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Entertaining and imformative for both scientists as well as the interested public
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
leopardiNJ More than 1 year ago
The ideal of design is perfection - an object so well put together that the alteration of the slightest detail ruins the overall effect. La Gioconda. More commonly, design can be classified as "organic". A simple concept embellished by contingency. Make do with what you have available. Sometimes contingency can lead to its own beauty - more often it's a mess. In this little book, Neil Shubin provides an overview of a number of perspectives by which one can trace the evolutionary history of the human body from the earliest single-cell (despite the title) organism. The author takes us on a somewhat breathless romp through evolutionary anatomy and physiology in what amounts, often, to a textbook update. He opens Your Inner Fish with an excellent description of the frustrations, triumphs, luck and hard work of paleontological field exploration. In the chapters that follow he combines humor and expertise in detailing the evolutionary paths to human appendages, the parallels between anatomy and genetics, between physiology and biochemistry. Along the way he finds time to discuss the evolutionary implications of such diverse topics as hiccups and hernias. Like S. J. Gould, Shubin comes up short in making the fundamental connection between architecture and phylogeny. Why not, in the assembly of limbs, 5, many, 2, 1 or even 4, 1, 3, 2 instead of 1, 2, many, 5? Is the order inevitable or accidental? Is ET a cute joke or a reasonable alternative? The book could well have been titled "A brief introduction to human comparative anatomy", but that would not have been very sexy. However, "brief" should have been appended to the title, for that would have helped to soften the books major flaw - too much is attempted in too little space, especially when one takes into account a bit too much repetition. The author does redeem himself to some degree with an excellent set of annotated notes that includes a solid selection of additional readings. Shubin deserves kudos for taking on such a daunting task and coming up with a fine book that is well worth the read and an excellent starting point for further exploration. Richard R. Pardi Environmental Science William Paterson University