Saturday, October 10, 2009

Five best books about extinction

Clive Finlayson is the director of the Gibraltar Museum and author of The Humans Who Went Extinct: Why Neanderthals Died Out and We Survived.

He named a five best list of books about extinction for the Wall Street Journal.

One title on the list:
Wonderful Life
by Stephen Jay Gould
Norton, 1989

This superb book recounts the discovery of a rich assemblage of invertebrate fossils high in the Canadian Rockies. For Stephen Jay Gould, the extinct animals of the Burgess Shales are the world's most important fossils, outranking even dinosaurs and ape-men. On the evidence found in the shales, an astonishing variety of strange creatures appeared on Earth in a burst of biological diversity some 570 million years ago. Most of these creatures then vanished in mass extinctions, but some made it through, including the seemingly insignificant little eel-like Pikaia. Gould saves the Pikaia for the end: From this plucky survivor descended the vertebrates and, ultimately, humans. As Gould reminds us, chance plays a role of staggering importance in the history of life.
Read about all five books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue