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Dinosaurs and the Science Wars
"... are dinosaurs social constructs? Do we really know anything about dinosaurs? Might not all of our beliefs about dinosaurs merely be figments of the paleontological imagination? A few years ago such questions would have seemed preposterous, even nonsensical. Now they must have a serious answer."
At stake in the "Science Wars" that have raged in academe and in the media is nothing less than the standing of science in our culture. One side argues that science is a "social construct," that it does not discover facts about the world, but rather constructs artifacts disguised as objective truths. This view threatens the authority of science and rejects science's claims to objectivity, rationality, and disinterested inquiry. Drawing Out Leviathan examines this argument in the light of some major debates about dinosaurs: the case of the wrong-headed dinosaur, the dinosaur "heresies" of the 1970s, and the debate over the extinction of dinosaurs.
Keith Parsons claims that these debates, though lively and sometimes rancorous, show that evidence and logic, not arbitrary "rules of the game," remained vitally important, even when the debates were at their nastiest. They show science to be a complex set of activities, pervaded by social influences, and not easily reducible to any stereotype. Parsons acknowledges that there are lessons to be learned by scientists from their would-be adversaries, and the book concludes with some recommendations for ending the Science Wars.
The Rock Record of Biological Development
How can we bring together the study of genes, embryos and fossils? Embryos in Deep Time is a critical synthesis of the study of individual development in fossils. It brings together an up-to-date review of concepts from comparative anatomy, ecology and developmental genetics, and examples of different kinds of animals from diverse geological epochs and geographic areas.
Can fossil embryos demonstrate evolutionary changes in reproductive modes? How have changes in ocean chemistry in the past affected the development of marine organisms? What can the microstructure of fossil bone and teeth reveal about maturation time, longevity and changes in growth phases? This book addresses these and other issues and documents with numerous examples and illustrations how fossils provide evidence not only of adult anatomy but also of the life history of individuals at different growth stages. The central topic of Biology today—the transformations occurring during the life of an organism and the mechanisms behind them—is addressed in an integrative manner for extinct animals.
Radiation ? Histology ? Biology
About 320 million years ago a group of reptiles known as the synapsids emerged and forever changed Earth's ecological landscapes. This book discusses the origin and radiation of the synapsids from their sail-backed pelycosaur ancestor to their diverse descendants, the therapsids or mammal-like reptiles, that eventually gave rise to mammals. It further showcases the remarkable evolutionary history of the synapsids in the Karoo Basin of South Africa and the environments that existed at the time. By highlighting studies of synapsid bone microstructure, it offers a unique perspective of how such studies are utilized to reconstruct various aspects of biology, such as growth dynamics, biomechanical function, and the attainment of sexual and skeletal maturity. A series of chapters outline the radiation and phylogenetic relationships of major synapsid lineages and provide direct insight into how bone histological analyses have led to an appreciation of these enigmatic animals as once-living creatures. The penultimate chapter examines the early radiation of mammals from their nonmammalian cynodont ancestors, and the book concludes by engaging the intriguing question of when and where endothermy evolved among the therapsids.
István Fozy and István Szente provide a comprehensive review of the fossil record of the Carpathian Basin. Fossils of the Carpathian Region describes and illustrates the region’s fossils, recounts their history, and tells the stories of key people involved in paleontological research in the area. In addition to covering all the important fossils of this region, special attention is given to rare finds and complete skeletons. The region’s fossils range from tiny foraminifera to the Transylvanian dinosaurs, mastodons, and mammals. The book also gives nonspecialists the opportunity to gain a basic understanding of paleontology. Sidebars present brief biographies of important figures and explain how to collect, prepare, and interpret fossils.
The Origin and Evolution of Tetrapods
Around 370 million years ago, a distant relative of a modern lungfish began a most extraordinary adventure—emerging from the water and laying claim to the land. Over the next 70 million years, this tentative beachhead had developed into a worldwide colonization by ever-increasing varieties of four-limbed creatures known as tetrapods, the ancestors of all vertebrate life on land. This new edition of Jennifer A. Clack's groundbreaking book tells the complex story of their emergence and evolution. Beginning with their closest relatives, the lobe-fin fishes such as lungfishes and coelacanths, Clack defines what a tetrapod is, describes their anatomy, and explains how they are related to other vertebrates. She looks at the Devonian environment in which they evolved, describes the known and newly discovered species, and explores the order and timing of anatomical changes that occurred during the fish-to-tetrapod transition.
The Search for the Conodont Animal
Stephen Jay Gould borrowed from Winston Churchill when he described the conodont animal as a "riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma." This animal confounded science for more than a century. Some thought it a slug, others a fish, a worm, a plant, even a primitive ancestor of ourselves. The list of possibilities grew and yet an answer to the riddle never seemed any nearer. Would the animal that left behind these miniscule fossils known as conodonts ever be identified? Three times the animal was "found," but each was quite a different animal. Were any of them really the one? Simon J. Knell takes the reader on a journey through 150 years of scientific thinking, imagining, and arguing. Slowly the animal begins to reveal traces of itself: its lifestyle, its remarkable evolution, its witnessing of great catastrophes, its movements over the surface of the planet, and finally its anatomy. Today the conodont animal remains perhaps the most disputed creature in the zoological world.
More than three hundred million years ago—a relatively recent date in the two billion years since life first appeared—vertebrate animals first ventured onto land. This usefully illustrated book describes how some finned vertebrates acquired limbs, giving rise to more than 25,000 extant tetrapod species. Michel Laurin uses paleontological, geological, physiological, and comparative anatomical data to describe this monumental event. He summarizes key concepts of modern paleontological research, including biological nomenclature, paleontological and molecular dating, and the methods used to infer phylogeny and character evolution. Along with a discussion of the evolutionary pressures that may have led vertebrates onto dry land, the book also shows how extant vertebrates yield clues about the conquest of land and how scientists uncover evolutionary history.
In Pursuit of Early Mammals presents the history of the mammals that lived during the Mesozoic era, the time when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, and describes their origins, anatomy, systematics, paleobiology, and distribution. It also tells the story of the author, a world-renowned specialist on these animals, and the other prominent paleontologists who have studied them. Zofia Kielan-Jaworowska was the first woman to lead large-scale paleontological expeditions, including eight to the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, which brought back important collections of dinosaur, early mammal, and other fossils. She shares the difficulties and pleasures encountered in finding rare fossils and describes the changing views on early mammals made possible by these discoveries.
Revealing the Unseen Lives of Plants and Animals
Have you ever wondered what left behind those prints and tracks on the seashore, or what made those marks or dug those holes in the dunes? Life Traces of the Georgia Coast is an up-close look at these traces of life and the animals and plants that made them. It tells about the how the tracemakers lived and how they interacted with their environments. This is a book about ichnology (the study of such traces), a wonderful way to learn about the behavior of organisms, living and long extinct. Life Traces presents an overview of the traces left by modern animals and plants in this biologically rich region; shows how life traces relate to the environments, natural history, and behaviors of their tracemakers; and applies that knowledge toward a better understanding of the fossilized traces that ancient life left in the geologic record. Augmented by numerous illustrations of traces made by both ancient and modern organisms, the book shows how ancient trace fossils directly relate to modern traces and tracemakers, among them, insects, grasses, crabs, shorebirds, alligators, and sea turtles. The result is an aesthetically appealing and scientifically accurate book that will serve as both a source book for scientists and for anyone interested in the natural history of the Georgia coast.
The Beginnings of Biological Evolution
Always a controversial and compelling topic, the origin of life on Earth was considered taboo as an area of inquiry for science as recently as the 1950s. Since then, however, scientists working in this area have made remarkable progress, and an overall picture of how life emerged is coming more clearly into focus. We now know, for example, that the story of life's origin begins not on Earth, but in the interiors of distant stars. This book brings a summary of current research and ideas on life's origin to a wide audience. The contributors, all of whom received the Oparin/Urey Gold Medal of the International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life, are luminaries in the fields of chemistry, paleobiology, and astrobiology, and in these chapters they discuss their life's work: understanding the what, when, and how of the early evolution of life on Earth. Presented in nontechnical language and including a useful glossary of scientific terms, Life's Origin gives a state-of-the-art encapsulation of the fascinating work now being done by scientists as they begin to characterize life as a natural outcome of the evolution of cosmic matter.