front cover of The Accidental Mind
The Accidental Mind
David J. Linden
Harvard University Press, 2007

You've probably seen it before: a human brain dramatically lit from the side, the camera circling it like a helicopter shot of Stonehenge, and a modulated baritone voice exalting the brain's elegant design in reverent tones.

To which this book says: Pure nonsense. In a work at once deeply learned and wonderfully accessible, the neuroscientist David Linden counters the widespread assumption that the brain is a paragon of design--and in its place gives us a compelling explanation of how the brain's serendipitous evolution has resulted in nothing short of our humanity. A guide to the strange and often illogical world of neural function, The Accidental Mind shows how the brain is not an optimized, general-purpose problem-solving machine, but rather a weird agglomeration of ad-hoc solutions that have been piled on through millions of years of evolutionary history. Moreover, Linden tells us how the constraints of evolved brain design have ultimately led to almost every transcendent human foible: our long childhoods, our extensive memory capacity, our search for love and long-term relationships, our need to create compelling narrative, and, ultimately, the universal cultural impulse to create both religious and scientific explanations. With forays into evolutionary biology, this analysis of mental function answers some of our most common questions about how we've come to be who we are.

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The Accidental Species
Misunderstandings of Human Evolution
Henry Gee
University of Chicago Press, 2013
The idea of a missing link between humanity and our animal ancestors predates evolution and popular science and actually has religious roots in the deist concept of the Great Chain of Being. Yet, the metaphor has lodged itself in the contemporary imagination, and new fossil discoveries are often hailed in headlines as revealing the elusive transitional step, the moment when we stopped being “animal” and started being “human.” In The Accidental Species, Henry Gee, longtime paleontology editor at Nature, takes aim at this misleading notion, arguing that it reflects a profound misunderstanding of how evolution works and, when applied to the evolution of our own species, supports mistaken ideas about our own place in the universe.
 
Gee presents a robust and stark challenge to our tendency to see ourselves as the acme of creation. Far from being a quirk of religious fundamentalism, human exceptionalism, Gee argues, is an error that also infects scientific thought. Touring the many features of human beings that have recurrently been used to distinguish us from the rest of the animal world, Gee shows that our evolutionary outcome is one possibility among many, one that owes more to chance than to an organized progression to supremacy. He starts with bipedality, which he shows could have arisen entirely by accident, as a by-product of sexual selection, moves on to technology, large brain size, intelligence, language, and, finally, sentience. He reveals each of these attributes to be alive and well throughout the animal world—they are not, indeed, unique to our species.

The Accidental Species combines Gee’s firsthand experience on the editorial side of many incredible paleontological findings with healthy skepticism and humor to create a book that aims to overturn popular thinking on human evolution—the key is not what’s missing, but how we’re linked.

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Across the Bridge
Understanding the Origin of the Vertebrates
Henry Gee
University of Chicago Press, 2018
Our understanding of vertebrate origins and the backbone of human history evolves with each new fossil find and DNA map. Many species have now had their genomes sequenced, and molecular techniques allow genetic inspection of even non-model organisms. But as longtime Nature editor Henry Gee argues in Across the Bridge, despite these giant strides and our deepening understanding of how vertebrates fit into the tree of life, the morphological chasm between vertebrates and invertebrates remains vast and enigmatic.

As Gee shows, even as scientific advances have falsified a variety of theories linking these groups, the extant relatives of vertebrates are too few for effective genetic analysis. Moreover, the more we learn about the species that do remain—from sea-squirts to starfish—the clearer it becomes that they are too far evolved along their own courses to be of much use in reconstructing what the latest invertebrate ancestors of vertebrates looked like. Fossils present yet further problems of interpretation. Tracing both the fast-changing science that has helped illuminate the intricacies of vertebrate evolution as well as the limits of that science, Across the Bridge helps us to see how far the field has come in crossing the invertebrate-to-vertebrate divide—and how far we still have to go.
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Adaptation in Metapopulations
How Interaction Changes Evolution
Michael J. Wade
University of Chicago Press, 2016
All organisms live in clusters, but such fractured local populations, or demes, nonetheless maintain connectivity with one another by some amount of gene flow between them. Most such metapopulations occur naturally, like clusters of amphibians in vernal ponds or baboon troops spread across the African veldt. Others have been created as human activities fragment natural landscapes, as in stands of trees separated by roads. As landscape change has accelerated, understanding how these metapopulations function—and specifically how they adapt—has become crucial to ecology and to our very understanding of evolution itself.

With Adaptation in Metapopulations, Michael J. Wade explores a key component of this new understanding of evolution: interaction. Synthesizing decades of work in the lab and in the field in a book both empirically grounded and underpinned by a strong conceptual framework, Wade looks at the role of interaction across scales from gene selection to selection at the level of individuals, kin, and groups. In so doing, he integrates molecular and organismal biology to reveal the true complexities of evolutionary dynamics from genes to metapopulations.
[more]

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Adaptive Oncogenesis
A New Understanding of How Cancer Evolves inside Us
James DeGregori
Harvard University Press, 2018

Popular understanding holds that genetic changes create cancer. James DeGregori uses evolutionary principles to propose a new way of thinking about cancer’s occurrence. Cancer is as much a disease of evolution as it is of mutation, one in which mutated cells outcompete healthy cells in the ecosystem of the body’s tissues. His theory ties cancer’s progression, or lack thereof, to evolved strategies to maximize reproductive success.

Through natural selection, humans evolved genetic programs to maintain bodily health for as long as necessary to increase the odds of passing on our genes—but not much longer. These mechanisms engender a tissue environment that favors normal stem cells over precancerous ones. Healthy tissues thwart cancer cells’ ability to outcompete their precancerous rivals. But as our tissues age or accumulate damage from exposures such as smoking, normal stem cells find themselves less optimized to their ecosystem. Cancer-causing mutations can now help cells adapt to these altered tissue environments, and thus outcompete normal cells. Just as changes in a species’ habitat favor the evolution of new species, changes in tissue environments favor the growth of cancerous cells.

DeGregori’s perspective goes far in explaining who gets cancer, when it appears, and why. While we cannot avoid mutations, it may be possible to sustain our tissues’ natural and effective system of defense, even in the face of aging or harmful exposures. For those interested in learning how cancers arise within the human body, the insights in Adaptive Oncogenesis offer a compelling perspective.

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African Political Parties
Evolution, Institutionalisation and Governance
Edited by M. A. Mohamed Salih
Pluto Press, 2003
The authors of this collection interrogate the political health of African political parties and evaluate the theory and practice of party functions, ideology and structure. Through fresh analysis using a variety of case studies, they question the democratic credentials of African political parties and propose new methods for achieving inclusive, broad-based representation.

Themes include the evolution and institutionalisation of African political parties; the unique historical, political and social circumstances that shaped their structures and functions.Morten Bøås In the governance trajectory, the authors question the relationship between African political parties and government; political parties and representation; political parties and electoral systems; and political parties and parliament. Case studies include Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and many others.
[more]

front cover of After Eden
After Eden
The Evolution of Human Domination
Kirkpatrick Sale
Duke University Press, 2006
When did the human species turn against the planet that we depend on for survival? Human industry and consumption of resources have altered the climate, polluted the water and soil, destroyed ecosystems, and rendered many species extinct, vastly increasing the likelihood of an ecological catastrophe. How did humankind come to rule nature to such an extent? To regard the planet’s resources and creatures as ours for the taking? To find ourselves on a seemingly relentless path toward ecocide?

In After Eden, Kirkpatrick Sale answers these questions in a radically new way. Integrating research in paleontology, archaeology, and anthropology, he points to the beginning of big-game hunting as the origin of Homo sapiens’ estrangement from the natural world. Sale contends that a new, recognizably modern human culture based on the hunting of large animals developed in Africa some 70,000 years ago in response to a fierce plunge in worldwide temperature triggered by an enormous volcanic explosion in Asia. Tracing the migration of populations and the development of hunting thousands of years forward in time, he shows that hunting became increasingly adversarial in relation to the environment as people fought over scarce prey during Europe’s glacial period between 35,000 and 10,000 years ago. By the end of that era, humans’ idea that they were the superior species on the planet, free to exploit other species toward their own ends, was well established.

After Eden is a sobering tale, but not one without hope. Sale asserts that Homo erectus, the variation of the hominid species that preceded Homo sapiens and survived for nearly two million years, did not attempt to dominate the environment. He contends that vestiges of this more ecologically sound way of life exist today—in some tribal societies, in the central teachings of Hinduism and Buddhism, and in the core principles of the worldwide environmental movement—offering redemptive possibilities for ourselves and for the planet.

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front cover of An Alfred Russel Wallace Companion
An Alfred Russel Wallace Companion
Edited by Charles H. Smith, James T. Costa, and David A. Collard
University of Chicago Press, 2019
Although Alfred Russel Wallace (1823–1913) was one of the most famous scientists in the world at the time of his death at the age of ninety, today he is known to many as a kind of “almost-Darwin,” a secondary figure relegated to the footnotes of Darwin’s prodigious insights. But this diminution could hardly be less justified. Research into the life of this brilliant naturalist and social critic continues to produce new insights into his significance to history and his role in helping to shape modern thought.

Wallace declared his eight years of exploration in southeast Asia to be “the central and controlling incident” of his life. As 2019 marks one hundred and fifty years since the publication of The Malay Archipelago, Wallace’s canonical work chronicling his epic voyage, this collaborative book gathers an interdisciplinary array of writers to celebrate Wallace’s remarkable life and diverse scholarly accomplishments. Wallace left school at the age of fourteen and was largely self-taught, a voracious curiosity and appetite for learning sustaining him throughout his long life. After years as a surveyor and builder, in 1848 he left Britain to become a professional natural history collector in the Amazon, where he spent four years. Then, in 1854, he departed for the Malay Archipelago. It was on this voyage that he constructed a theory of natural selection similar to the one Charles Darwin was developing, and the two copublished papers on the subject in 1858, some sixteen months before the release of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.

But as the contributors to the Companion show, this much-discussed parallel evolution in thought was only one epoch in an extraordinary intellectual life. When Wallace returned to Britain in 1862, he commenced a career of writing on a huge range of subjects extending from evolutionary studies and biogeography to spiritualism and socialism. An Alfred Russel Wallace Companion provides something of a necessary reexamination of the full breadth of Wallace’s thought—an attempt to describe not only the history and present state of our understanding of his work, but also its implications for the future.
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Alien Species and Evolution
The Evolutionary Ecology of Exotic Plants, Animals, Microbes, and Interacting Native Species
George W. Cox
Island Press, 2004

In Alien Species and Evolution, biologist George W. Cox reviews and synthesizes emerging information on the evolutionary changes that occur in plants, animals, and microbial organisms when they colonize new geographical areas, and on the evolutionary responses of the native species with which alien species interact.

The book is broad in scope, exploring information across a wide variety of taxonomic groups, trophic levels, and geographic areas. It examines theoretical topics related to rapid evolutionary change and supports the emerging concept that species introduced to new physical and biotic environments are particularly prone to rapid evolution. The author draws on examples from all parts of the world and all major ecosystem types, and the variety of examples used gives considerable insight into the patterns of evolution that are likely to result from the massive introduction of species to new geographic regions that is currently occurring around the globe.

Alien Species and Evolution is the only state-of-the-art review and synthesis available of this critically important topic, and is an essential work for anyone concerned with the new science of invasion biology or the threats posed by invasive species.

[more]

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The American Naturalist, volume 200 number 1 (July 2022)
The University of Chicago Press
University of Chicago Press Journals, 2022

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The American Naturalist, volume 200 number 2 (August 2022)
The University of Chicago Press
University of Chicago Press Journals, 2022

logo for University of Chicago Press Journals
The American Naturalist, volume 200 number 3 (September 2022)
The University of Chicago Press
University of Chicago Press Journals, 2022

logo for University of Chicago Press Journals
The American Naturalist, volume 200 number 4 (October 2022)
The University of Chicago Press
University of Chicago Press Journals, 2022

front cover of The American Naturalist, volume 200 number 5 (November 2022)
The American Naturalist, volume 200 number 5 (November 2022)
The University of Chicago Press
University of Chicago Press Journals, 2022
This is volume 200 issue 5 of The American Naturalist. Since its inception in 1867, The American Naturalist has maintained its position as one of the world’s premier peer-reviewed publications in ecology, evolution, and behavior research. Its goals are to publish articles that are of broad interest to the readership, pose new and significant problems, introduce novel subjects, develop conceptual unification, and change the way people think. The American Naturalist emphasizes sophisticated methodologies and innovative theoretical syntheses — all in an effort to advance the knowledge of organic evolution and other broad biological principles.
[more]

front cover of The American Naturalist, volume 200 number 6 (December 2022)
The American Naturalist, volume 200 number 6 (December 2022)
The University of Chicago Press
University of Chicago Press Journals, 2022
This is volume 200 issue 6 of The American Naturalist. Since its inception in 1867, The American Naturalist has maintained its position as one of the world’s premier peer-reviewed publications in ecology, evolution, and behavior research. Its goals are to publish articles that are of broad interest to the readership, pose new and significant problems, introduce novel subjects, develop conceptual unification, and change the way people think. The American Naturalist emphasizes sophisticated methodologies and innovative theoretical syntheses — all in an effort to advance the knowledge of organic evolution and other broad biological principles.
[more]

front cover of The American Naturalist, volume 201 number 1 (January 2023)
The American Naturalist, volume 201 number 1 (January 2023)
The University of Chicago Press
University of Chicago Press Journals, 2023
This is volume 201 issue 1 of The American Naturalist. Since its inception in 1867, The American Naturalist has maintained its position as one of the world’s premier peer-reviewed publications in ecology, evolution, and behavior research. Its goals are to publish articles that are of broad interest to the readership, pose new and significant problems, introduce novel subjects, develop conceptual unification, and change the way people think. The American Naturalist emphasizes sophisticated methodologies and innovative theoretical syntheses — all in an effort to advance the knowledge of organic evolution and other broad biological principles.
[more]

front cover of The American Naturalist, volume 201 number 2 (February 2023)
The American Naturalist, volume 201 number 2 (February 2023)
The University of Chicago Press
University of Chicago Press Journals, 2023
This is volume 201 issue 2 of The American Naturalist. Since its inception in 1867, The American Naturalist has maintained its position as one of the world’s premier peer-reviewed publications in ecology, evolution, and behavior research. Its goals are to publish articles that are of broad interest to the readership, pose new and significant problems, introduce novel subjects, develop conceptual unification, and change the way people think. The American Naturalist emphasizes sophisticated methodologies and innovative theoretical syntheses — all in an effort to advance the knowledge of organic evolution and other broad biological principles.
[more]

front cover of The American Naturalist, volume 201 number 3 (March 2023)
The American Naturalist, volume 201 number 3 (March 2023)
The University of Chicago Press
University of Chicago Press Journals, 2023
This is volume 201 issue 3 of The American Naturalist. Since its inception in 1867, The American Naturalist has maintained its position as one of the world’s premier peer-reviewed publications in ecology, evolution, and behavior research. Its goals are to publish articles that are of broad interest to the readership, pose new and significant problems, introduce novel subjects, develop conceptual unification, and change the way people think. The American Naturalist emphasizes sophisticated methodologies and innovative theoretical syntheses — all in an effort to advance the knowledge of organic evolution and other broad biological principles.
[more]

front cover of The American Naturalist, volume 201 number 4 (April 2023)
The American Naturalist, volume 201 number 4 (April 2023)
The University of Chicago Press
University of Chicago Press Journals, 2023
This is volume 201 issue 4 of The American Naturalist. Since its inception in 1867, The American Naturalist has maintained its position as one of the world’s premier peer-reviewed publications in ecology, evolution, and behavior research. Its goals are to publish articles that are of broad interest to the readership, pose new and significant problems, introduce novel subjects, develop conceptual unification, and change the way people think. The American Naturalist emphasizes sophisticated methodologies and innovative theoretical syntheses — all in an effort to advance the knowledge of organic evolution and other broad biological principles.
[more]

front cover of The American Naturalist, volume 201 number 5 (May 2023)
The American Naturalist, volume 201 number 5 (May 2023)
The University of Chicago Press
University of Chicago Press Journals, 2023
This is volume 201 issue 5 of The American Naturalist. Since its inception in 1867, The American Naturalist has maintained its position as one of the world’s premier peer-reviewed publications in ecology, evolution, and behavior research. Its goals are to publish articles that are of broad interest to the readership, pose new and significant problems, introduce novel subjects, develop conceptual unification, and change the way people think. The American Naturalist emphasizes sophisticated methodologies and innovative theoretical syntheses — all in an effort to advance the knowledge of organic evolution and other broad biological principles.
[more]

front cover of The American Naturalist, volume 201 number 6 (June 2023)
The American Naturalist, volume 201 number 6 (June 2023)
The University of Chicago Press
University of Chicago Press Journals, 2023
This is volume 201 issue 6 of The American Naturalist. Since its inception in 1867, The American Naturalist has maintained its position as one of the world’s premier peer-reviewed publications in ecology, evolution, and behavior research. Its goals are to publish articles that are of broad interest to the readership, pose new and significant problems, introduce novel subjects, develop conceptual unification, and change the way people think. The American Naturalist emphasizes sophisticated methodologies and innovative theoretical syntheses — all in an effort to advance the knowledge of organic evolution and other broad biological principles.
[more]

front cover of The American Naturalist, volume 202 number 1 (July 2023)
The American Naturalist, volume 202 number 1 (July 2023)
The University of Chicago Press
University of Chicago Press Journals, 2023
This is volume 202 issue 1 of The American Naturalist. Since its inception in 1867, The American Naturalist has maintained its position as one of the world’s premier peer-reviewed publications in ecology, evolution, and behavior research. Its goals are to publish articles that are of broad interest to the readership, pose new and significant problems, introduce novel subjects, develop conceptual unification, and change the way people think. The American Naturalist emphasizes sophisticated methodologies and innovative theoretical syntheses — all in an effort to advance the knowledge of organic evolution and other broad biological principles.
[more]

front cover of The American Naturalist, volume 202 number 2 (August 2023)
The American Naturalist, volume 202 number 2 (August 2023)
The University of Chicago Press
University of Chicago Press Journals, 2023
This is volume 202 issue 2 of The American Naturalist. Since its inception in 1867, The American Naturalist has maintained its position as one of the world’s premier peer-reviewed publications in ecology, evolution, and behavior research. Its goals are to publish articles that are of broad interest to the readership, pose new and significant problems, introduce novel subjects, develop conceptual unification, and change the way people think. The American Naturalist emphasizes sophisticated methodologies and innovative theoretical syntheses — all in an effort to advance the knowledge of organic evolution and other broad biological principles.
[more]

front cover of The American Naturalist, volume 202 number 3 (September 2023)
The American Naturalist, volume 202 number 3 (September 2023)
The University of Chicago Press
University of Chicago Press Journals, 2023
This is volume 202 issue 3 of The American Naturalist. Since its inception in 1867, The American Naturalist has maintained its position as one of the world’s premier peer-reviewed publications in ecology, evolution, and behavior research. Its goals are to publish articles that are of broad interest to the readership, pose new and significant problems, introduce novel subjects, develop conceptual unification, and change the way people think. The American Naturalist emphasizes sophisticated methodologies and innovative theoretical syntheses — all in an effort to advance the knowledge of organic evolution and other broad biological principles.
[more]

front cover of The American Naturalist, volume 202 number 4 (October 2023)
The American Naturalist, volume 202 number 4 (October 2023)
The University of Chicago Press
University of Chicago Press Journals, 2023
This is volume 202 issue 4 of The American Naturalist. Since its inception in 1867, The American Naturalist has maintained its position as one of the world’s premier peer-reviewed publications in ecology, evolution, and behavior research. Its goals are to publish articles that are of broad interest to the readership, pose new and significant problems, introduce novel subjects, develop conceptual unification, and change the way people think. The American Naturalist emphasizes sophisticated methodologies and innovative theoretical syntheses — all in an effort to advance the knowledge of organic evolution and other broad biological principles.
[more]

front cover of The American Naturalist, volume 202 number 5 (November 2023)
The American Naturalist, volume 202 number 5 (November 2023)
The University of Chicago Press
University of Chicago Press Journals, 2023
This is volume 202 issue 5 of The American Naturalist. Since its inception in 1867, The American Naturalist has maintained its position as one of the world’s premier peer-reviewed publications in ecology, evolution, and behavior research. Its goals are to publish articles that are of broad interest to the readership, pose new and significant problems, introduce novel subjects, develop conceptual unification, and change the way people think. The American Naturalist emphasizes sophisticated methodologies and innovative theoretical syntheses — all in an effort to advance the knowledge of organic evolution and other broad biological principles.
[more]

front cover of The American Naturalist, volume 202 number 6 (December 2023)
The American Naturalist, volume 202 number 6 (December 2023)
The University of Chicago Press
University of Chicago Press Journals, 2023
This is volume 202 issue 6 of The American Naturalist. Since its inception in 1867, The American Naturalist has maintained its position as one of the world’s premier peer-reviewed publications in ecology, evolution, and behavior research. Its goals are to publish articles that are of broad interest to the readership, pose new and significant problems, introduce novel subjects, develop conceptual unification, and change the way people think. The American Naturalist emphasizes sophisticated methodologies and innovative theoretical syntheses — all in an effort to advance the knowledge of organic evolution and other broad biological principles.
[more]

front cover of The American Naturalist, volume 203 number 1 (January 2024)
The American Naturalist, volume 203 number 1 (January 2024)
The University of Chicago Press
University of Chicago Press Journals, 2024
This is volume 203 issue 1 of The American Naturalist. Since its inception in 1867, The American Naturalist has maintained its position as one of the world’s premier peer-reviewed publications in ecology, evolution, and behavior research. Its goals are to publish articles that are of broad interest to the readership, pose new and significant problems, introduce novel subjects, develop conceptual unification, and change the way people think. The American Naturalist emphasizes sophisticated methodologies and innovative theoretical syntheses — all in an effort to advance the knowledge of organic evolution and other broad biological principles.
[more]

front cover of The American Naturalist, volume 203 number 2 (February 2024)
The American Naturalist, volume 203 number 2 (February 2024)
The University of Chicago Press
University of Chicago Press Journals, 2024
This is volume 203 issue 2 of The American Naturalist. Since its inception in 1867, The American Naturalist has maintained its position as one of the world’s premier peer-reviewed publications in ecology, evolution, and behavior research. Its goals are to publish articles that are of broad interest to the readership, pose new and significant problems, introduce novel subjects, develop conceptual unification, and change the way people think. The American Naturalist emphasizes sophisticated methodologies and innovative theoretical syntheses — all in an effort to advance the knowledge of organic evolution and other broad biological principles.
[more]

front cover of The American Naturalist, volume 203 number 3 (March 2024)
The American Naturalist, volume 203 number 3 (March 2024)
The University of Chicago Press
University of Chicago Press Journals, 2024
This is volume 203 issue 3 of The American Naturalist. Since its inception in 1867, The American Naturalist has maintained its position as one of the world’s premier peer-reviewed publications in ecology, evolution, and behavior research. Its goals are to publish articles that are of broad interest to the readership, pose new and significant problems, introduce novel subjects, develop conceptual unification, and change the way people think. The American Naturalist emphasizes sophisticated methodologies and innovative theoretical syntheses — all in an effort to advance the knowledge of organic evolution and other broad biological principles.
[more]

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American Pronghorn
Social Adaptations and the Ghosts of Predators Past
John A. Byers
University of Chicago Press, 1997
Pronghorn antelope are the fastest runners in North America, clocked at speeds of up to 100 kilometers per hour. Yet none of their current predators can come close to running this fast. Pronghorn also gather in groups, a behavior commonly viewed as a "safety in numbers" defense. But again, none of their living predators are fearsome enough to merit such a response.

In this elegantly written book, John A. Byers argues that these mystifying behaviors evolved in response to the dangerous predators with whom pronghorn shared their grassland home for nearly four million years: among them fleet hyenas, lions, and cheetahs. Although these predators died out ten thousand years ago, pronghorn still behave as if they were present—as if they were living with the ghosts of predators past.

Byers's provocative hypothesis will stimulate behavioral ecologists and mammalogists to consider whether other species' adaptations are also haunted by selective pressures from predators past. The book will also find a ready audience among evolutionary biologists and paleontologists.
[more]

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America's Snake
The Rise and Fall of the Timber Rattlesnake
Ted Levin
University of Chicago Press, 2016
There’s no sound quite like it, or as viscerally terrifying: the ominous rattle of the timber rattlesnake. It’s a chilling shorthand for imminent danger, and a reminder of the countless ways that nature can suddenly snuff us out.
 
Yet most of us have never seen a timber rattler. Though they’re found in thirty-one states, and near many major cities, in contemporary America timber rattlesnakes are creatures mostly of imagination and innate fear.
 
Ted Levin aims to change that with America’s Snake, a portrait of the timber rattlesnake, its place in America’s pantheon of creatures and in our own frontier history—and of the heroic efforts to protect it against habitat loss, climate change, and the human tendency to kill what we fear. Taking us from labs where the secrets of the snake’s evolutionary history are being unlocked to far-flung habitats whose locations are fiercely protected by biologists and dedicated amateur herpetologists alike, Levin paints a picture of a fascinating creature: peaceable, social, long-lived, and, despite our phobias, not inclined to bite. The timber rattler emerges here as emblematic of America and also, unfortunately, of the complicated, painful struggles involved in protecting and preserving the natural world.
 
A wonderful mix of natural history, travel writing, and exemplary journalism, America’s Snake is loaded with remarkable characters—none more so than the snake at its heart: frightening, perhaps; endangered, certainly; and unquestionably unforgettable.
[more]

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Amniote Paleobiology
Perspectives on the Evolution of Mammals, Birds, and Reptiles
Edited by Matthew T. Carrano, Timothy J. Gaudin, Richard W. Blob, and John R. Wi
University of Chicago Press, 2006
Living amniotes—including all mammals, birds, crocodilians, snakes, and turtles—comprise an extraordinarily varied array of more than 21,000 species. Found in every major habitat on earth, they possess a truly remarkable range of morphological, ecological, and behavioral adaptations. The fossil record of amniotes extends back three hundred million years and reveals much about modern biological diversity of form and function.

A collaborative effort of twenty-four researchers, Amniote Paleobiology presents thirteen new and important scientific perspectives on the evolution and biology of this familiar group. It includes new discoveries of dinosaurs and primitive relatives of mammals; studies of mammalian chewing and locomotion; and examinations of the evolutionary process in plesiosaurs, mammals, and dinosaurs. Emphasizing the rich variety of analytical techniques available to vertebrate paleontologists—from traditional description to multivariate morphometrics and complex three-dimensional kinematics—Amniote Paleobiology seeks to understand how species are related to each other and what these relationships reveal about changes in anatomy and function over time. A timely synthesis of modern contributions to the field of evolutionary studies, Amniote Paleobiology furthers our understanding of this diverse group.
[more]

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Analyzing Animal Societies
Quantitative Methods for Vertebrate Social Analysis
Hal Whitehead
University of Chicago Press, 2008
Animals lead rich social lives. They care for one another, compete for resources, and mate. Within a society, social relationships may be simple or complex and usually vary considerably, both between different groups of individuals and over time. These social systems are fundamental to biological organization, and animal societies are central to studies of behavioral and evolutionary biology. But how do we study animal societies?  How do we take observations of animals fighting, grooming, or forming groups and produce a realistic description or model of their societies?

Analyzing AnimalSocieties presents a conceptual framework for analyzing social behavior and demonstrates how to put this framework into practice by collecting suitable data on the interactions and associations of individuals so that relationships can be described, and, from these, models can be derived.  In addition to presenting the tools, Hal Whitehead illustrates their applicability using a wide range of real data on a variety of animal species—from bats and chimps to dolphins and birds. The techniques that Whitehead describes will be profitably adopted by scientists working with primates, cetaceans, birds, and ungulates, but the tools can be used to study societies of invertebrates, amphibians, and even humans. Analyzing AnimalSocieties will become a standard reference for those studying vertebrate social behavior and will give to these studies the kind of quality standard already in use in other areas of the life sciences.
[more]

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Ancient Mesopotamia at the Dawn of Civilization
The Evolution of an Urban Landscape
Guillermo Algaze
University of Chicago Press, 2008
The alluvial lowlands of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in southern Mesopotamia are widely known as the “cradle of civilization,” owing to the scale of the processes of urbanization that took place in the area by the second half of the fourth millennium BCE.
            In Ancient Mesopotamia at the Dawn of Civilization, Guillermo Algaze draws on the work of modern economic geographers to explore how the unique river-based ecology and geography of the Tigris-Euphrates alluvium affected the development of urban civilization in southern Mesopotamia. He argues that these natural conditions granted southern polities significant competitive advantages over their landlocked rivals elsewhere in Southwest Asia, most importantly the ability to easily transport commodities. In due course, this resulted in increased trade and economic activity and higher population densities in the south than were possible elsewhere. As southern polities grew in scale and complexity throughout the fourth millennium, revolutionary new forms of labor organization and record keeping were created, and it is these socially created innovations, Algaze argues, that ultimately account for why fully developed city-states emerged earlier in southern Mesopotamia than elsewhere in Southwest Asia or the world.

[more]

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André Leroi-Gourhan on Technology, Evolution, and Social Life
A Selection of Texts and Writings from the 1930s to the 1970s
André Leroi-Gourhan
Bard Graduate Center, 2023
A selection of Leroi-Gourhan’s most important texts—many translated into English for the first time.

André Leroi-Gourhan is undoubtedly one of the most acclaimed figures of twentieth-century anthropology and archaeology. In France, his intellectual importance rivals that of the Claude Lévi-Strauss, yet Leroi-Gourhan’s major contributions are almost entirely unknown in the Anglophone world. This collection seeks to change that. This selection highlights some of his chief influences, such as elaborating a theory of technology, which argues that material culture focuses on the object in use and how use is a dynamic feature that has specific consequences for human evolution and human society. With serious ramifications for our understanding of material culture, putting Leroi-Gourhan’s thinking about technology into English will have an immediate and transformative impact on material culture studies.
[more]

front cover of Animal Body Size
Animal Body Size
Linking Pattern and Process across Space, Time, and Taxonomic Group
Edited by Felisa A. Smith and S. Kathleen Lyons
University of Chicago Press, 2013
Galileo wrote that “nature cannot produce a horse as large as twenty ordinary horses or a giant ten times taller than an ordinary man unless by miracle or by greatly altering the proportions of his limbs and especially of his bones”—a statement that wonderfully captures a long-standing scientific fascination with body size. Why are organisms the size that they are? And what determines their optimum size?          
           
This volume explores animal body size from a macroecological perspective, examining species, populations, and other large groups of animals in order to uncover the patterns and causal mechanisms of body size throughout time and across the globe. The chapters represent diverse scientific perspectives and are divided into two sections. The first includes chapters on insects, snails, birds, bats, and terrestrial mammals and discusses the body size patterns of these various organisms. The second examines some of the factors behind, and consequences of, body size patterns and includes chapters on community assembly, body mass distribution, life history, and the influence of flight on body size.
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Animal Personalities
Behavior, Physiology, and Evolution
Edited by Claudio Carere and Dario Maestripieri
University of Chicago Press, 2013
Ask anyone who has owned a pet and they’ll assure you that, yes, animals have personalities. And science is beginning to agree. Researchers have demonstrated that both domesticated and nondomesticated animals—from invertebrates to monkeys and apes—behave in consistently different ways, meeting the criteria for what many define as personality. But why the differences, and how are personalities shaped by genes and environment? How did they evolve? The essays in Animal Personalities reveal that there is much to learn from our furred and feathered friends.
           
The study of animal personality is one of the fastest-growing areas of research in behavioral and evolutionary biology. Here Claudio Carere and Dario Maestripieri, along with a host of scholars from fields as diverse as ecology, genetics, endocrinology, neuroscience, and psychology, provide a comprehensive overview of the current research on animal personality. Grouped into thematic sections, chapters approach the topic with empirical and theoretical material and show that to fully understand why personality exists, we must consider the evolutionary processes that give rise to personality, the ecological correlates of personality differences, and the physiological mechanisms underlying personality variation.
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The Annotated Origin
Charles DarwinAnnotated by James T. Costa
Harvard University Press, 2009
Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species is the most important and yet least read scientific work in the history of science. Now James T. Costa—experienced field biologist, theorist on the evolution of insect sociality, and passionate advocate for teaching Darwin in a society in which a significant proportion of adults believe that life on earth has been created in its present form within the last 10,000 years—has given a new voice to this epochal work. By leading readers line by line through the Origin, Costa brings evolution’s foundational text to life for a new generation.The Annotated Origin is the edition of Darwin’s masterwork used in Costa’s course at Western Carolina University and in Harvard’s Darwin Summer Course at Oxford. A facsimile of the first edition of 1859 is accompanied by Costa’s extensive marginal annotations, drawing on his extensive experience with Darwin’s ideas in the field, lab, and classroom. This edition makes available an accessible, useful, and practical resource for anyone reading the Origin for the first time or for those who want to reread it with the insights and perspective that a working biologist can provide.
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Antipredator Defenses in Birds and Mammals
Tim Caro
University of Chicago Press, 2005
In nature, the ability to defend against predators is fundamental to an animal's survival. From the giraffes that rely on their spotted coats to blend into the patchy light of their woodland habitats to the South American sea lions that pile themselves in heaps to ward off the killer whales that prey on them in the shallow surf, defense strategies in the animal kingdom are seemingly innumerable.

In Antipredator Defenses in Birds and Mammals, Tim Caro ambitiously synthesizes predator defenses in birds and mammals and integrates all functional and evolutionary perspectives on antipredator defenses that have developed over the last century. Structured chronologically along a hypothetical sequence of predation—Caro evokes a gazelle fawn desperate to survive a cheetah attack to illustrate the continuum of the evolution of antipredator defenses—Antipredator Defenses in Birds and Mammals considers the defenses that prey use to avoid detection by predators; the benefits of living in groups; morphological and behavioral defenses in individuals and groups; and, finally, flight and adaptations of last resort.

Antipredator Defenses in Birds and Mammals will be of interest to both specialists and general readers interested in ecological issues.
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The Ape in the Tree
An Intellectual and Natural History of Proconsul
Alan Walker and Pat Shipman
Harvard University Press, 2005

This book offers a unique insider's perspective on the unfolding discovery of a crucial link in our evolution: Proconsul, a fossil ape named whimsically after a performing chimpanzee called Consul.

The Ape in the Tree is written in the voice of Alan Walker, whose involvement with Proconsul began when his graduate supervisor analyzed the tree-climbing adaptations in the arm and hand of this extinct creature. Today, Proconsul is the best-known fossil ape in the world.

The history of ideas is set against the vivid adventures of Walker's fossil-hunting expeditions in remote regions of Africa, where the team met with violent thunderstorms, dangerous wildlife, and people isolated from the Western world. Analysis of the thousands of new Proconsul specimens they recovered provides revealing glimpses of the life of this last common ancestor between apes and humans.

The attributes of Proconsul have profound implications for the very definition of humanness. This book speaks not only of an ape in a tree but also of the ape in our tree.

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Apes and Human Evolution
Russell H. Tuttle
Harvard University Press, 2014

In this masterwork, Russell H. Tuttle synthesizes a vast research literature in primate evolution and behavior to explain how apes and humans evolved in relation to one another, and why humans became a bipedal, tool-making, culture-inventing species distinct from other hominoids. Along the way, he refutes the influential theory that men are essentially killer apes—sophisticated but instinctively aggressive and destructive beings.

Situating humans in a broad context, Tuttle musters convincing evidence from morphology and recent fossil discoveries to reveal what early primates ate, where they slept, how they learned to walk upright, how brain and hand anatomy evolved simultaneously, and what else happened evolutionarily to cause humans to diverge from their closest relatives. Despite our genomic similarities with bonobos, chimpanzees, and gorillas, humans are unique among primates in occupying a symbolic niche of values and beliefs based on symbolically mediated cognitive processes. Although apes exhibit behaviors that strongly suggest they can think, salient elements of human culture—speech, mating proscriptions, kinship structures, and moral codes—are symbolic systems that are not manifest in ape niches.

This encyclopedic volume is both a milestone in primatological research and a critique of what is known and yet to be discovered about human and ape potential.

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The Architecture of Evolution
The Science of Form in Twentieth-Century Evolutionary Biology
Marco Tamborini
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2022

In the final decades of the twentieth century, the advent of evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo) offered a revolutionary new perspective that transformed the classical neo-Darwinian, gene-centered study of evolution. In The Architecture of Evolution, Marco Tamborini demonstrates how this radical innovation was made possible by the largely forgotten study of morphology. Despite the key role morphology played in the development of evolutionary biology since the 1940s, the architecture of organisms was excluded from the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis. And yet, from the beginning of the twentieth century to the 1970s and ’80s, morphologists sought to understand how organisms were built and how organismal forms could be generated and controlled. The generation of organic form was, they believed, essential to understanding the mechanisms of evolution. Tamborini explores how the development of evo-devo and the recent organismal turn in biology involved not only the work of morphologists but those outside the biological community with whom they exchanged their data, knowledge, and practices. Together with architects and engineers, they worked to establish a mathematical and theoretical basis for the study of organic form as a mode of construction, developing and reinterpreting important notions that would play a central role in the development of evolutionary developmental biology in the late 1980s. This book sheds light not only on the interdisciplinary basis for many of the key concepts in current developmental biology but also on contributions to the study of organic form outside the English-speaking world.

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The Ark and Beyond
The Evolution of Zoo and Aquarium Conservation
Edited by Ben A. Minteer, Jane Maienschein, and James P. Collins
University of Chicago Press, 2018
Scores of wild species and ecosystems around the world face a variety of human-caused threats, from habitat destruction and fragmentation to rapid climate change. But there is hope, and it, too, comes in a most human form: zoos and aquariums. Gathering a diverse, multi-institutional collection of leading zoo and aquarium scientists as well as historians, philosophers, biologists, and social scientists, The Ark and Beyond traces the history and underscores the present role of these organizations as essential conservation actors. It also offers a framework for their future course, reaffirming that if zoos and aquariums make biodiversity conservation a top priority, these institutions can play a vital role in tackling conservation challenges of global magnitude.

While early menageries were anything but the centers of conservation that many zoos are today, a concern with wildlife preservation has been an integral component of the modern, professionally run zoo since the nineteenth century. From captive breeding initiatives to rewilding programs, zoos and aquariums have long been at the cutting edge of research and conservation science, sites of impressive new genetic and reproductive techniques. Today, their efforts reach even further beyond recreation, with educational programs, community-based conservation initiatives, and international, collaborative programs designed to combat species extinction and protect habitats at a range of scales. Addressing related topics as diverse as zoo animal welfare, species reintroductions, amphibian extinctions, and whether zoos can truly be “wild,” this book explores the whole range of research and conservation practices that spring from zoos and aquariums while emphasizing the historical, scientific, and ethical traditions that shape these efforts. Also featuring an inspiring foreword by the late George Rabb, president emeritus of the Chicago Zoological Society / Brookfield Zoo, The Ark and Beyond illuminates these institutions’ growing significance to the preservation of global biodiversity in this century.
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The Arrival of the Fittest
Biology's Imaginary Futures, 1900–1935
Jim Endersby
University of Chicago Press
In the early twentieth century, varied audiences took biology out of the hands of specialists and transformed it into mass culture, transforming our understanding of heredity in the process.
 
In the early twentieth century communities made creative use of the new theories of heredity in circulation at the time, including the now largely forgotten mutation theory of Hugo de Vries. Science fiction writers, socialists, feminists, and utopians are among those who seized on the amazing possibilities of rapid and potentially controllable evolution. De Vries’s highly respected scientific theory only briefly captured the attention of the scientific community, but its many fans appropriated it for their own wildly imaginative ends. Writers from H.G. Wells and Edith Wharton to Charlotte Perkins Gilman, J.B.S. Haldane, and Aldous Huxley created a new kind of imaginary future, which Jim Endersby calls the biotopia. It took the ambiguous possibilities of biology—utopian and dystopian—and reimagined them in ways that still influence the public’s understanding of the life sciences. The Arrival of the Fittest recovers the fascinating, long-forgotten origins of ideas that have informed works of fiction from Brave New World to the X-Men movies, all while reflecting on the lessons—positive and negative—that this period might offer us.
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Arthropod Brains
Evolution, Functional Elegance, and Historical Significance
Nicholas James Strausfeld
Harvard University Press, 2012

In The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin proposed that an ant’s brain, no larger than a pin’s head, must be sophisticated to accomplish all that it does. Yet today many people still find it surprising that insects and other arthropods show behaviors that are much more complex than innate reflexes. They are products of versatile brains which, in a sense, think.

Fascinating in their own right, arthropods provide fundamental insights into how brains process and organize sensory information to produce learning, strategizing, cooperation, and sociality. Nicholas Strausfeld elucidates the evolution of this knowledge, beginning with nineteenth-century debates about how similar arthropod brains were to vertebrate brains. This exchange, he shows, had a profound and far-reaching impact on attitudes toward evolution and animal origins. Many renowned scientists, including Sigmund Freud, cut their professional teeth studying arthropod nervous systems. The greatest neuroanatomist of them all, Santiago Ramón y Cajal—founder of the neuron doctrine—was awed by similarities between insect and mammalian brains.

Writing in a style that will appeal to a broad readership, Strausfeld weaves anatomical observations with evidence from molecular biology, neuroethology, cladistics, and the fossil record to explore the neurobiology of the largest phylum on earth—and one that is crucial to the well-being of our planet. Highly informative and richly illustrated, Arthropod Brains offers an original synthesis drawing on many fields, and a comprehensive reference that will serve biologists for years to come.

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August Weismann
Development, Heredity, and Evolution
Frederick B. Churchill
Harvard University Press, 2015

The evolutionist Ernst Mayr considered August Weismann “one of the great biologists of all time.” Yet the man who formulated the germ plasm theory—that inheritance is transmitted solely through the nuclei of the egg and sperm cells—has not received an in-depth historical examination. August Weismann reintroduces readers to a towering figure in the life sciences. In this first full-length biography, Frederick Churchill situates Weismann in the swirling intellectual currents of his era and demonstrates how his work paved the way for the modern synthesis of genetics and evolution in the twentieth century.

In 1859 Darwin’s tantalizing new idea stirred up a great deal of activity and turmoil in the scientific world, to a large extent because the underlying biological mechanisms of evolution through natural selection had not yet been worked out. Weismann’s achievement was to unite natural history, embryology, and cell biology under the capacious dome of evolutionary theory. In his major work on the germ plasm (1892), which established the material basis of heredity in the “germ cells,” Weismann delivered a crushing blow to Lamarck’s concept of the inheritance of acquired traits.

In this deeply researched biography, Churchill explains the development of Weismann’s pioneering work based on cytology and embryology and opens up an expanded history of biology from 1859 to 1914. August Weismann is sure to become the definitive account of an extraordinary life and career.

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Authorizing Superhero Comics
On the Evolution of a Popular Serial Genre
Daniel Stein
The Ohio State University Press, 2021
Authorizing Superhero Comics examines the comic book superhero as a lasting phenomenon of US popular serial storytelling. Moving beyond linear- or creator-centered models of genre development, Daniel Stein identifies authorization conflicts that have driven the genre’s evolution from the late 1930s to the present. These conflicts include paratextually mediated exchanges between officially authorized comic book producers and, alternatively, authorized fans that trouble the distinction between production and its reception; storyworld-building processes that subsume producers and fans into a collective rooted in a common style; parodies that ensure the genre’s longevity by deflating criticism through self-reflexive humor; and collecting and archiving as forms of memory management that align the genre’s past with the demands of the present. Taking seriously the serial agencies of the superhero comic book as a material artifact with a particular mediality, the study analyzes letter columns, editorial commentary, fanzines, encyclopedias, and other forms of comic book communication as critical frameworks for understanding the evolution of the genre—assessing rarely covered archival sources alongside some of the most treasured figures from the superhero’s multi-decade history, from Batman and Spider-Man to Wonder Woman and Captain America.
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