- Hardcover: 368 pages
- Publisher: Basic Books; 1 edition (January 7, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780465020515
- ISBN-13: 978-0465020515
- ASIN: 0465020518
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 43 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #918,093 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Monkey's Voyage: How Improbable Journeys Shaped the History of Life 1st Edition
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*Starred Review* Even Darwin thought it far-fetched—that is, his proposal that ocean-crossing is why similar species that can’t swim or fly are found on oceanic islands and both sides of great oceans. But ocean-crossing how? On what? So when plate tectonics was accepted, some of his successor scientists leaped upon it, arguing that the splitting up of the supercontinent Gondwanaland was how terrestrial cousins wound up on widely separated dry lands. Problem is, molecular dating indicates that the big breakup occurred tens of millions of years before those specific cousins or even their common ancestors evolved. Hence, for the better part of the last hundred years, debate has raged between dispersalists (ocean-crossing advocates) and vicariance biogeographers (continental-drift advocates). Evolutionary biologist de Queiroz is unapologetically dispersalist but hardly triumphalist about it. As he tells the story, which is as much about the discipline of biogeography as about the dispute, there is no reason for either side to ever proclaim victory. The earth’s animals and plants consist of both Gondwanan relics and plenty—indeed, a preponderance—of species that have developed ever since the present continents and islands formed. Deciding which are which constitutes a story full of intriguing discoveries that de Queiroz, a fluent and spellbinding popular-science writer, agglomerates into the narrative spine of a book brimming with fascination. --Ray Olson
[A] lively book...his tale of how the world was populated willy-nillyand of our own fumbling attempts to understand itmakes for a splendid intellectual history.”
Wall Street Journal
[An] entertaining book.... De Queiroz writes in a pleasant, relaxed style.... It reads like an eclectic scrapbook, full of interesting bits from hither and yon.”
New York Times Book Review
Lucidly and captivatingly written, [de Queiroz's] narrative merges snapshots from his personal perspective with detailed descriptions of key players from the past two centuries, their characters, and livesas if the author knew them personally...we found The Monkey's Voyage a joy to read and a great example of how a potentially dry scientific debate can be presented to attract a broad readership.”
In his engaging new book, The Monkey's Voyage, de Queiroz makes the case that the vibrant and distinctive biological communities we see today were created by organisms rafting across oceans and soaring through the atmosphere.”
The Monkey's Voyage is a captivating look at one of biogeography's most puzzling problems, with just the right balance between science and scientific drama.”
Specialists and nonspecialists alike will enjoy de Queiroz's quirky, personable style and wide-ranging examples.”
Chronicle of Higher Education
(Alan de Queiroz) delights in telling the tales of extraordinary journeys by unlikely critters snakes, frogs, flightless birds and even monkeys and with these tales he reveals a world shaped by miracles.'”
Times Higher Education Supplement (UK)
Entertaining and enlightening.... Beyond the actual science, de Queiroz brings insight into the nature of scientific discourse itself.”
A story full of intriguing discoveries that de Queiroz, a fluent and spellbinding popular-science writer, agglomerates into the narrative spine of a book brimming with fascination.”
Booklist, starred review
A fascinating exploration of the field of biogeography.... An excellent storyteller, de Queiroz dramatically weaves the historical development of various scientific tropescontinental drift, plate tectonics, molecular dating, and mass extinctionstogether with his own research interests and details of his far-flung travels.... [A] provocative book.”
Library Journal, starred review
Just how plants and animals separated by oceans have reached other continents, whether by riding on shifting tectonic plates or by their own long-distance travel, is not only a basic question of biogeography but of life on earth. De Queiroz discusses the issue brilliantly and in delightfully lucid prose.... The Monkey's Voyage is the most fascinating and intriguing evolutionary drama I have read in a long time. I recommend the book highly to all who like scientific mysteries and have an interest in our planet.”
George Schaller, field biologist, winner of the National Book Award, and author of The Serengeti Lion
I have read it [The Monkey's Voyage] more or less straight through being unable to put it down easily. It is a rare mix such as we had in Steve Gould of brilliant science and great narrative ability.”
Robin Fox, Professor at Rutgers University, and author of The Imperial Animal
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For those who are considering a career in science or anyone interested in the culture of science, this book provides useful examples of how individuals establish fiefdoms that adversely affect the elegance that science research can be.
The general field of the book is that of biogeography – the science of how life forms that we observe today got to be where they are on the globe. The scientific explanations fall into two main classes: Those that use the movement of tectonic plates as the primary mechanism (called vicariance) and those that appeal to rare and improbable long distance dispersal mechanisms, such as chance ocean transport by naturally occurring rafts of vegetation. Throughout the later part of the 20th Century, vicariance explanations were dominant. More recently, long distance dispersal has become more widely accepted, although not to the exclusion of vicariance.
Professor Queiroz presents the story of how this change occurred from two points of view: The scientific evidence and the associated cultural changes in the scientific community. The predominant and compelling new evidence comes from DNA analysis which has provided clearer ancestral relationships and more reliable dates, some of which are inconsistent with a purely vicariance approach.
If all this sounds a little dry and overspecialized, in Professor Queiroz’s hands it sparkles with life and enthusiasm. He covers the full range of multicellular life from plants and insects to large mammals and discusses implications that range from the detailed to the philosophical.
After reading this book, I not only have a better understanding of biogeography but I also have renewed confidence in the scientific process which, over time, is able to correct human irrationality and keep heading towards the truth. In this, science is unique: That is why it is so important.