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On the Origin of Phyla 1st Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226845487
ISBN-10: 0226845486
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Editorial Reviews


"Valentine brings together a mass of evidence from many sources in a magisterial compendium. . . . There is direct evidence from the fossil record, of course. But there is also new evidence from trees of relationships derived from studying similarities in gene sequences of living animals. These are often ambiguous. Then there is evidence from the way genes are expressed during the growth and development of the body plans of animals. . . . Add to this classical morphology and embryology. . . . It is an astonishing range of information all brought together within one pair of covers. It's enough to make mere mortals awestruck. . . . Valentine [offers] a judicious evaluation of an astonishing array of evidence."
(Richard Fortey New Scientist 2004-09-11)

"A likely candidate for the bookshelves of those who hunt for pre-Cambriam fossils or the historical patterns in DNA sequences."
(R. Andrew Cameron Science 2004-07-30)

"Valentine [is] one of the Renaissance minds of our time. . . . Darwin wisely called his best-known work On the Origin of Species; the origin of phyla is an even stickier problem, and Valentine deserves credit for tackling it at such breadth. . . . A magnificent book."—Stefan Bengtson, Nature
(Stefan Bengtson Nature 2004-07-29)

"Valentine has indeed produced a wonderfully informative and well-written book by mixing together three basic ingredients that are now available: paleontology, molecular phylogeny, and developmental genetics."
(Alessandro Minelli Trends in Ecology and Evolution 2004-09-01)

"Valentine envisions the study of the origins of phyla as a multidisciplinary investigation of patterns and process. His book provides a masterful guide to what we know about the origins of the phyla and current research issues relating to the early history of animal life. . . . Valentine does not hesitate to speak his mind, which gives the book a forceful discussion of well-argued ideas."
(Rudolf A. Raff Evolution & Development 2004-11-01)

"To say that this book--which summarizes the current state of knowledge on how basic animal body plans evolved . . . represents a monumental undertaking is surely understatement of the finest variety. . . . All who study the history of life would benefit from an understanding of the material presented here."—Fossil News

(Fossil News)

"A magnificent book--authoritative, rich with relevant knowledge, and clearly written. It may be many years before it will be surpassed by any other treatise on the subject."
(Francisco J. Ayala Quarterly Review of Biology)

From the Inside Flap

Owing its inspiration and title to On the Origin of Phlya, James W. Valentine's ambitious book synthesizes and applies the vast treasury of theory and research collected in the century and a half since Darwin's time. By investigating the origins of life's diversity, Valentine unlocks the mystery of the origin of phyla.

One of the twentieth century's most distinguished paleobiologists, Valentine here integrates data from molecular genetics, evolutionary developmental biology, embryology, comparative morphology, and paleontology into an analysis of interest to scholars from any of these fields. He begins by examining the sorts of evidence that can be gleaned from fossils, molecules, and morphology, then reviews and compares the basic morphology and development of animal phyla, emphasizing the important design elements found in the bodyplans of both living and extinct phyla. Finally, Valentine undertakes the monumental task of developing models to explain the origin and early diversification of animal phyla, as well as their later evolutionary patterns.

Truly a magnum opus, On the Origin of Phyla will take its place as one of the classic scientific texts of the twentieth century, affecting the work of paleontologists, morphologists, and developmental, molecular, and evolutionary biologists for decades to come.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (June 18, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226845486
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226845487
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.5 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,579,868 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Dean Welch on March 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The title says it all, this is a book about the evolution of phyla. It's a fairly advanced book, if you don't know what a phylum is or what natural selection is you'll probably find it a very rough go. However you don't have to be an expert, I'm certainly not, to enjoy it and learn from it.

The book starts off by covering a lot of background biology. The first chapter covers very basic topics relating to classifying animals such as: what phyla are, why it's useful to study homologues, the nature of hierarchies and cladistics.

The second chapter covers cellular biology. This quickly moves from the study of single cells to how cells aggregate to form tissues, organs and other body parts. This sets the stage for the following chapters that discuss body plans and how their development is determined by a system of regulatory genes, not just individual alleles.

Following this is a discussion of the fossil record, a high level view of the phyla and how they are related to each other. Much of the rest of the book is spent elaborating on this material.

The first section concludes with a discussion of the Cambrian Explosion. The main ideas he describes are: there was no explosion, it was due to physical changes in the environment, it was due to a biological changes in the environment or it was due to an intrinsic evolutionary change. Needles to say it's an open question and the author couldn't give a definitive answer. As more material is covered the question is addressed several times later in the book.

This first part of the book alone made it worth it to me.

The next six chapters form the heart of the book, they give a very detailed account of the phyla.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a biologist yet found this book a hard study. No, I didn't READ it, I studied it. That's what is required. My little corner of biology is not evolutionary biology, so this book was a bit off my beaten track. For those with the determination, this is a very rewarding work, and may become a classic. It lacks a good glossary; the one it has seems to have been thrown together as an afterthought. The illustrations could benefit from serious upgrading. Yet with these minor faults, I still rate this book as 5 stars. A truly marvelous work.
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Format: Hardcover
With new evidence from molecular sequencing, the study of evolutionary development and the discovery of exceptionally preserved fossils of Precambrian and Cambrian age, the reality of evolution cannot be denied. Valentine embraces these fields with his experience and authority as a professor emeritus of integrative biology at UCB, who has been publishing novel and provocative ideas on the origin and nature of phyla for more than 30 years. This book is essentially about the Cambrian radiation, the event that gave rise to most of the major animal groups. The book's particular strength is its integration of data from paleontology and biology. This book is a remarkable achievement, a timely synthesis of the current state of this exciting field. It may be a bit of a tedious read for many, but a must for anyone who wants to understand evolution at its core.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a fantastic book that discusses in great (sometimes excruciating) detail the morphological, developmental, fossil, molecular, and other evidence regarding the definitions, circumscriptions, origins, evolution, and interrelationships of the phyla. Mostly well and clearly written although the text is at times frustratingly redundant, and it will probably be difficult reading for anybody without an intense interest in, and some basic knowledge of, biology. However, it is a must-read for anybody who is interested in this topic.
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