Saturday, April 8, 2017
1) Ewing, Susan. Resurrecting the Shark: A Scientific Obsession and the Mavericks Who Solved the Mystery of a 270-Million-Year-Old Fossil. 2017. Pegasus Books. Hardbound: 282 pages. Price: $27.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: A prehistoric mystery. A fossil so mesmerizing that it boggled the minds of scientists for more than a century―until a motley crew of modern day shark fanatics decided to try to bring the monster-predator back to life.
In 1993, Alaskan artist and paleo-shark enthusiast Ray Troll stumbled upon the weirdest fossil he had ever seen―a platter-sized spiral of tightly wound shark teeth. This chance encounter in the basement of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County sparked Troll’s obsession with Helicoprion, a mysterious monster from deep time.
In 2010, tattooed undergraduate student and returning Iraq War veteran Jesse Pruitt became seriously smitten with a Helicoprion fossil in a museum basement in Idaho. These two bizarre-shark disciples found each other, and an unconventional band of collaborators grew serendipitously around them, determined to solve the puzzle of the mysterious tooth whorl once and for all.
Helicoprion was a Paleozoic chondrichthyan about the size of a modern great white shark, with a circular saw of teeth centered in its lower jaw―a feature unseen in the shark world before or since. For some ten million years, long before the Age of Dinosaurs, Helicoprion patrolled the shallow seas around the supercontinent Pangaea as the apex predator of its time.
Just a few tumultuous years after Pruitt and Troll met, imagination, passion, scientific process, and state-of-the-art technology merged into an unstoppable force that reanimated the remarkable creature―and made important new discoveries.
In this groundbreaking book, Susan Ewing reveals these revolutionary insights into what Helicoprion looked like and how the tooth whorl functioned―pushing this dazzling and awe-inspiring beast into the spotlight of modern science.
RECOMMENDATION: For anyone with an interest in fossil sharks. Ray Troll's artwork highlights this book!
2) Head, Vernon R.L.. The Rarest Bird in the World: The Search for the Nechisar Nightjar. 2016 (2017). Pegasus Books. Paperback: 243 pages. Price: $16.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: In 1990, a group of Cambridge scientists arrived at the Plains of Nechisar in Ethiopia. On that expedition, they collected more than two dozen specimens, saw more than three hundred species of birds, and a plethora of rare butterflies, dragonflies, reptiles, mammals, and plants. As they were gathering up their findings, a wing of an unidentified bird was packed into a brown paper bag. It was to become the most famous wing in the world. This wing would set the world of science aflutter. Experts were mystified. The wing was entirely unique. It was like nothing they had ever seem before. Could a new species be named based on just one wing? After much discussion, a new species was announced: Nechisar Nightjar, or Caprimulgus solala, which means "only wing." And so birdwatchers like Vernon began to dream. Twenty-two years later, he joins an expedition of four to find this rarest bird in the world. In this gem of nature writing, Vernon captivates and enchants as he recounts the searches by spotlight through the Ethiopian plains, and allows the reader to mediate on nature, exploration, our need for wild places, and the human compulsion to name things. Rarest Bird is a celebration of a certain way of seeing the world, and will bring out the explorer in in everyone who reads it.
RECOMMENDATION: The paperback version features the cover art of Julie Zickefoose.