Thursday, August 25, 2016

Thoughts on Shubin's Inner Fish: A great overview of fossils & their connections to evolution & development

I read with great interest Neil Shubin's "Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5 Billion-Year History of the Human Body". Shubin is a noted paleontologist, and the book gives a nice overview of this field -- key properties of rocks, bones, teeth and so forth. I learned, for instance, that fossils are best preserved in sedimentary rocks. I also found out a lot about the intricate structure of the bones of the inner ear and how the diffusing of alcohol in and out of them gives us the sensation of feeling drunk and having a hangover. Shubin explains that we can understand a lot about bone structures through evolutionary and developmental biology because intermediate forms (in development and evolution) provide a unity that connects the many disparate fossils found in nature. This is particularly the case for a lot of the intricate structures in the skull and the nerves associated with them. Shubin then goes on to explain how one can understand many developmental and evolutionary processes in molecular terms, eventually discussing molecular fossils for genes (ie pseudogenes) -- such as for the odorant receptors. Overall I would say this is a great read and would highly recommend it to people interested in learning about paleontology and how it relates to molecular biology.



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