Wednesday, April 25, 2012
1) Gunnell, Gregg F. and Nancy B. Simmons (editors). Evolutionary History of Bats: Fossils, Molecules and Morphology. 2012. Cambridge University Press. Paperback: 560 pages. Price: $65.00 U.S.
SUMMARY: Advances in morphological and molecular methods continue to uncover new information on the origin and evolution of bats. Presenting some of the most remarkable discoveries and research involving living and fossil bats, this book explores their evolutionary history from a range of perspectives. Phylogenetic studies based on both molecular and morphological data have established a framework of evolutionary relationships that provides a context for understanding many aspects of bat biology and diversification. In addition to detailed studies of the relationships and diversification of bats, the topics covered include the mechanisms and evolution of powered flight, evolution and enhancement of echolocation, feeding ecology, population genetic structure, ontogeny and growth of facial form, functional morphology and evolution of body size. The book also examines the fossil history of bats from their beginnings over 50 million years ago to their diversification into one of the most globally wide-spread orders of mammals living today.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with a technical interest in bat evolution.
2) Tattersall, Ian. Masters of the Planet: The Search for Our Human Origins. 2012. MacMillian. Hardbound: 266 pages. Price: $26.00 U.S., £16.99.
SUMMARY: When Homo sapiens made their entrance about 200,000 years ago they were confronted by a wide range of other early humans - Homo erectus, who walked better and used fire; Homo habilis who used tools; and of course the Neanderthals, who were brawny and strong. But shortly after their arrival, something happened that vaulted the species forward and made them the indisputable masters of the planet. This book is devoted to revealing just what that difference is. It explores how the physical traits and cognitive ability of homo sapiens distanced them from the rest of nature. Even more importantly, Masters of the Planet looks at how our early ancestors acquired these superior abilities; it shows that their strange and unprecedented mental facility is not, as most of us were taught, simply a basic competence that was refined over unimaginable eons by natural selection. Instead, it is an emergent capacity that was acquired quite recently and changed the world definitively.
RECOMMENDATION: A detailed account on the rise of our species.