How did species wind up where they are today? Scientists have long conjectured that plants and animals dispersed throughout the world by drifting on large landmasses as they broke up, but in The Monkey’s Voyage, biologist Alan de Queiroz offers a radical new theory that displaces this passive view.
He describes how species as diverse as monkeys, baobab trees, and burrowing lizards made incredible long-distance ocean crossings: pregnant animals and wind-blown plants rode rafts and icebergs and even stowed away on the legs of sea-going birds to create the map of life we see today. In the tradition of John McPhee's Basin and Range and David Quammen's The Song of the Dodo, The Monkey’s Voyage is a beautifully told narrative of a profound investigation into the importance of contingency in history and the nature of scientific discovery.
©2014 Alan de Queiroz (P)2013 Audible Inc.
I am book junkie. Read to me.
This is an exhaustive study of biological history and evolution, as it relates to continental drift, cladistics and other off-shoots and counterpoints to Darwin's theory. I had never heard of the field of biogeography until I listened to this book and now I feel very comfortable with the subject. The author begins with Darwin and then looks at each successive theory in turn, ultimately disproving many or tempering their strict stances with alternative possibilities. De Queiroz builds his case brick by scientific brick, until he returns to Darwin, who first suggested that many, if not most, of the breaks and bizarre pan-continental connections in the biological narrative could be attributed to seemingly impossible journeys across oceans by species. Darwin did several experiments but didn't live long enough to prove his suppositions. De Queiroz, however, with the benefit of DNA testing, cites numerous examples of plants and animals that could not have reached certain shores any other way except by ocean travel.
I found this book illuminating and entertaining. I've read Darwin, but I am not a scientist, so some of the theoretical explanations went a bit too deep for me. But de Queiroz works hard to engage the non-scientist and his enthusiasm for his subject is hard to resist. He brings to life many interesting historical characters, such as the gentleman-explorer who influenced Darwin and the passionate, if wrong-headed, Leon Croizat, who thought Darwin "congenitally not a thinker."
The reader does a great job with material which, while very well written, can be dense in its exhaustive detail.
I bought this book on a whim and I'm very glad I did. I learned a lot.
Great story of how science from many disciplines comes together to solve the puzzle of evolution. Best book on the subjects since "the greatest show on earth".
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