Stephen Jay Gould, "Eight Little Piggies: Reflections in Natural History"
ISBN: 039303416X, 0393311392 | 1993 | EPUB | 480 pages | 2 MB
If Stephen Jay Gould did not exist it would hardly be possible to invent him. Who else among scientists who write reaches so far or grasps so surely the "pretty pebbles" that together make up the amplitude of life?
Eight Little Piggies is the sixth volume in a series of essays, begun in 1974 in the pages of Natural History under the rubric "This View of Life." Now numbering more than 200 in an unbroken string, they comprise a unique achievement in the annals of literature. And they will continue, vows the author, until the millennium, in January 2001. So Stephen Jay Gould's readers, numbering in the millions around the world, have not only this present pleasure but also much to look forward to.
Eight Little Piggies is a special book in several ways. In all of Gould's work, this is the most contemplative and personal, speaking often of the importance of unbroken connections within our own lives and to our ancestral generations, "a theme of supreme importance to evolutionists who study a world in which extinction is the ultimate fate of all and prolonged persistence the only meaningful measure of success." This personal view leads naturally to an area that has become, for Gould, of major importance - environmental deterioration and the massive extinction of species on our present earth. He chooses, typically, unusual and telling examples: the demise of the land snail Partula from Moorea (the Bali Hai of South Pacific) and why the battle that raged over the Mount Graham red squirrel of Arizona was worth fighting. There are, in addition, more than thirty of those pretty pebbles that make Gould's work unique, opening to us the mysteries of fish tails and frog calls, of the coloration ofpigeons and the eye tissue of completely bind mole rats. Along the way, we learn what story lies behind the bent tail of an ichthyosaur and how hearing bones evolved and how, probably, we with our five fingers and toes (subject of the title essay) evolved from ancestors that had six.
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