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Life in a Shell: A Physiologist's View of a Turtle

5.0 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674050341
ISBN-10: 0674050347
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Over 200 million years of existence, turtles have shared the planet with dinosaurs, witnessed the diversification of mammals and seen the spread of humans. Physiologist Donald Jackson conveys his love of the reptile in his book. He explains how its slow movements help it to survive winters under ice and describes how its shell functions as a home, armour and a buoyancy aid. By focusing on the physiology of this one familiar beast, he also reveals how scientific understanding evolves by building on the work of others. (Nature 2011-02-10)

Ever wonder what it's like to be a turtle? No one has come closer to finding out than Donald C. Jackson in Life in a Shell: A Physiologist's View of a Turtle, as he delves into the biology and behavior that has allowed the turtle to survive on Earth essentially unchanged for the last 220 million years. (Adam Kirsch Barnes and Noble Review 2011-02-23)

Turtle physiologist Jackson has produced a fascinating, informative book on aspects of turtle structure, behavior, and physiology. Even readers with only a minor interest in turtles will find themselves engrossed and locked into the narrative...Most of the text is easy to read and highly entertaining. Anyone interested in turtles will find this a worthwhile addition to his/her reading list. (E. D. Keiser Choice 2011-08-01)

About the Author

Donald C. Jackson is Professor Emeritus of Medical Science, Brown University.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (February 28, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674050347
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674050341
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,151,590 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Saganite VINE VOICE on June 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm a big fan of turtles. I own a small tortoise, for example, and go for walks specifically to see snapper and painted turtles near my Minneapolis home (I don't actually live in Mongolia). And I am a very interested layperson, but not a biologist, zoologist, or herpetologist. I suppose I could best be described as a scientifically literate naturalist. And THAT is who this book is decidedly for, as author Donald Jackson lays out in an apologetic paragraph about how this book might be too technical for those not accustomed to reading science and too simple for actual scientists (which he tries to remedy through copious references to technical source material the scientist can peruse). The problem with compromise can be that you end up satisfying no one, but in this case I think Jackson hit the Goldilocks sweet spot and it was "just right."

It helps that the subject matter is naturally fascinating and even a little charismatic. There is much to talk about with regards to their physiology because of their highly specific adaptations related to staying alive for long periods without breathing oxygen (which includes handling the lactic acid build-up this entails), being neutrally buoyant though structurally dense, respiring without a chest that can expand and contract as ours does, reproduction (he uses a charming bit of doggerel from Ogden Nash on that topic), and other issues.

There is nothing especially "practical" in "Shell," from the standpoint of a guidebook or care-and-feeding book. But "Shell" is a paragon of how to write for people who become intensely curious about a topic for which no decent lay material exists.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Just when you think you have a subject mastered, someone comes along and presents wonderful new findings to excite and educate you a bit more. I have studied turtles for 40 years and taught herpetology for 25 years and Jacksons work gave me a tremendous amount of knowledge of which I was unaware. Many facts regarding the physiology of Chrysemys and Trachemys were both enlightening and useful. I highly recommend this book for anyone working with turtles or anyone who just wants to understand this wonderful creature a bit more. Thank you Dr. Jackson for a superb study.
Dr. Lawrence Cartmill
Mountwest Community College
Huntington, WV
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Nice, well-written book for all of us that may have caught and kept turtles as pets but never really understood these fascinating creatures. If you once considered majoring in zoology as I did in college, this book is a fun way to get the background on these guys.
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Our turtles are 25+ years old, & live a very sedate life. This author "dissects" turtles & their uniqueness in clear but scientifically valid (I'm a physician) prose, describing how they handle buoyancy, breathing, low-to-no oxygen situations, all under various depths of water.
He obviously admires turtles, as do I, without anthropomorphising them--that's sometimes a temptation in those who write about pets for a lay audience. One need not be a physiologist, biologist, vet to appreciate the content. One need not have or even care about turtles. The adaptations are fascinating, & the presentation flows so that the exploration advances one's understanding of ways to be and stay alive, regardless of one's shell or its absence.
Enjoyable, revealing, well done!
I need to add that he gratuitously gets into global warming & associated propaganda, which is the only non-scientific portion of his text....
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