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The Link: Uncovering Our Earliest Ancestor Hardcover – May 20, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; First Edition edition (May 20, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316070084
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316070089
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,067,068 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"This is an extraordinary fossil." - Sir David Attenborough

"This fossil will probably be the one that will be pictured in all textbooks for the next one hundred years." - Dr. Jørn Hurum, University of Oslo

"When the results of our investigations are published, this will be just like an asteroid hitting the Earth." - Dr. Jens Lorenz Franzen, Senckenberg Research Institute

"A kind of Rosetta stone... it ties together parts we haven't been able to associate before." - Dr. Philip Gingerich, University of Michigan

"The most beautiful fossil primate I've ever seen. In terms of a complete skeleton, it's hard to think of anything else in primate evolution that's as complete as this fossil." - Dr. Holly Smith, University of Michigan

About the Author

  COLIN TUDGE is a biologist by education and a writer by inclination- on biology, food and agriculture, and the philosophy of science. His books include The Tree, Feeding People Is Easy, Consider the Birds, and The Time Before History. For more information about the author, go to www.colintudge.com.

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Customer Reviews

Clearly, no supervising editor read the book.
Harry Eagar
Intertwined with Ida's story is the story of Dr. Jorn Hurum and his discovery of Ida's fossilized remains for sale in the shadowy world of private fossil collection.
E. Flynn
This is a good primer book for anyone interested in evolution.
Robert Williams

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Enjolras TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Because this is a book review, I am going to try to avoid merely rehashing criticism regarding the hype surrounding the Darwinius masillae fossil. By now you've already probably heard enough of that. If you want some good blog commentary on Ida, check out Carl Zimmer's blog (feed://www.amazon.com/gp/blog/AN44WKEOJXHKY/rss.xml).

As a popular science book, I enjoyed "The Link." I have read quite a few books about evolution and paleontology at various levels, and thought this one was one of the most clearly written (if not the most scientifically sound). The writing itself is smooth and accessible to a wider audience. The book conveys the right amount of detail for a general audience. I also appreciated the "boyish" enthusiasm the authors conveyed for the Ida fossil. Fossils are exciting, and I'm glad the authors made no effort to hide their enthusiasm. Sometimes, this becomes a problem if the book's enthusiastic claims are not backed up with evidence (which I'll get to later), but overall describing the acquisition of Ida as a "cloak and dagger" operation (in which Hurum must first verify the legality of the fossil) can show - in a dramatic fashion - some of the real challenges paleontologists face when collecting fossils.

I particularly liked the first chapter, which begins with a fictionalized account of Ida's death during the Eocene (approx. 55-33 million years ago) (incidentally, this chapter is free for download on "The Link" website). As much as I appreciate the more technical books discussing fossil analysis or new theories in evolution, at some point I think it is helpful to animate the fossils and show how they might have lived (I think Raptor Red by Bob Bakker was another great attempt at this for Velociraptors).
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Harry Eagar VINE VOICE on September 29, 2010
Format: Paperback
"The Link" is the story of Ida, one of the most perfect fossils of a mammal ever found, and a very good story it ought to have been, too. However, Colin Tudge and his editors have butchered it.

Setting aside the tons of preposterous creationist books, "The Link" is the worst attempt at a serious work, though pitched to a popular audience, on palaeobiology I have ever encountered. The next worst isn't half as bad, either.

A little can be salvaged from the wreck, although that little would hardly make a magazine article. A Norwegian palaeontologist, Jorn Hurum, was scouting a fossil market for museum specimens when a dealer offered him a fossil that had been collected 25 years earlier by an amateur, not identified but evidently a serious field worker.

On examination, it proved to be 47 million years old, from a well-known site in Germany, Messel, where an anoxic lake permitted animals to be preserved down to the outline of their fur. Named Ida, it was to be promoted as the most important find in the primate line at least since Lucy, Australopithecus afarensis, was found in Ethiopia.

This is a plausible claim, and Hurum and his team apparently (according to Josh Young, who wrote the more-or-less competent chapters on the history of the find and its presentation to the world) spent a lot of thought about how to tell the world about Ida. Hurum said, truly, that a genuinely important fossil can be ruined -- at least for a time -- by ham-fisted presentation. Hurum's gang couldn't have found a more ham-fisted agent than Tudge.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Dr. John W. Rippon VINE VOICE on August 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Fortunately I was unaware of the controversy surrounding this book and the TV documentary that appeared at the same time until after I had bought and began reading it. I was also unaware of the rather raucous reviews of some of the readers that are contained in the reader review section of the book list entry. Some of the hot-winded reviewers sounded like the noisy dunces at a health care town meeting or an anti-abortion rally (much ado about nothing). What I will relate are my impressions unmarred by the previously noted diatribes.
As a retired professor involved in the teaching of evolutionary biology for some thirty years, I was very excited about the subject of this work. A 47 million year old almost complete fossil skeleton of a new early primate; a possible link in the transition of prosimian to anthropoid in the Eocene from the famous Messel Lagerstatte was very exciting indeed. However as I began reading in earnest I had the feeling that something was amiss. It read like an early, unrevised manuscript ( I have written seven books myself and I know). There were generalizations that were unsound, there was bad sentence sequence, there was lack of "flow" that has always been a pleasure in Mr. Tudge's previous works(of which I have several). Finally there was downright wrong information. On page 41 "The commonest form of carbon in the world has an atomic weight of 14 and is known as carbon 14". This is an inexcusable error; this is beginning High School chemistry. In 1961 the IUPC chose carbon 12 as the basis for all atomic weights; the standard by which all other elements are measured. Yes, there are rare isotopes as carbon 13 and carbon 14 that occur and can be used as radioactive tracers. But such errors cast a pall on the whole book and it's content.
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