Elentarri's Book Blog

Book reviews and other interesting goodies.

SPOILER ALERT!

Macbeth by Shakespeare

Macbeth - William Shakespeare

TITLE:  The Tragedy of Macbeth

 

AUTHOR:  William Shakespeare

 

EDITION:  Folger Shakespeare Library Edition

 

_______________________________

DESCRIPTION:

"In 1603, James VI of Scotland ascended the English throne, becoming James I of England. London was alive with an interest in all things Scottish, and Shakespeare turned to Scottish history for material. He found a spectacle of violence and stories of traitors advised by witches and wizards, echoing James’s belief in a connection between treason and witchcraft.

In depicting a man who murders to become king, Macbeth teases us with huge questions. Is Macbeth tempted by fate, or by his or his wife’s ambition? Why does their success turn to ashes?

Like other plays, Macbeth speaks to each generation. Its story was once seen as that of a hero who commits an evil act and pays an enormous price. Recently, it has been applied to nations that overreach themselves and to modern alienation. The line is blurred between Macbeth’s evil and his opponents’ good, and there are new attitudes toward both witchcraft and gender.
"

___________________________________

REVIEW:

 

It's a bit difficult to review Shakespeare.  The man is famous.  His works have been taught at school, performed ofter, watched by millions, read and enjoyed by many more.  In short, Shakespeare has pervaded modern society. 

 

Macbeth is a fairly simple play. There are few characters to keep track of, the action occurs chronologically, and the plot is uncomplicated.  The play also has many memorable characters, especially Macbeth, Lady Macbeth and the three witches.  The various psychological effects of evil deeds is nicely examined through the Macbeth couple - their disintegration as a married couple, as well as the "evolution" of their personal moral feelings for their actions.   This is an entertaining, though dark, drama that makes use of eloquent language to create evocative imagery, and sneaks in questions of human free-will, the role of fate and an analysis of human character.

 

Updates: Macbeth - Front Matter and Act I

Updates: Macbeth - Act II

Updates: Macbeth - Act III

Updates: Macbeth - Act IV

Updates: Macbeth - Act V

 

 

SPOILER ALERT!

SKELETONS UPDATE: Chapter 7

Skeletons: The Frame of Life - Jan Zalasiewicz, Mark Williams

TITLE:  Skeletons:  The Frame of Life

 

AUTHORS:  Jan Zalasiewicz and Mark Williams

 

____________________

 

CHAPTER 7:  FLYING SKELETONS

 

In this chapter, Zalasiewicz and Williams deal with flying organisms - birds (including terror birds), bats, pterosaurs, gliding animals, flying insects and aeroplankton.  They take a look at the skeletal modifications required for the different modes of flying as well as the differences between wing structures of different animal families.  This chapter was rather superficial, with a missed opportunity in terms of illustrating the different skeletal structures between birds, bats and pterosaurs.  This is an interesting chapter that could have been more detailed. 

 

The nicely illustrated book,  On the Wing:  Insects, Pterosaurs, Birds, Bats and the Evolution of Animal Flight by David E. Alexander, describes flight in much greater details for those interested in that sort of thing.

 

 

 

 

 

On aeroplankton:

"The mass of tiny suspended organisms in the atmosphere is christened the aeroplankton, the study of which was started in the mid-19th century by Christian Gottfried Ehrenberg. Aeroplankton includes the spores and pollen of fungi and plants, bacteria, viruses, and a number of small animals too, including arthropods and arthropod eggs. Spiders, for example, will sometimes hitch a lift as part of this aeroplankton, unfurling their fine silk threads to catch the wind or rising air masses, as tiny kites."

"Bacteria have been found as high as 70 kilometres in the atmosphere, constraining the absolute limit to which Earth’s biosphere extends. One of these is Pseudomonas syringae, a species of thin-walled bacterium [...] that has the remarkable property of causing ice to nucleate around it high in the air, and these icecoated bacteria then act as seeds for water droplets. This is thus a cloudmaking bacterium. Some forms of this bacterium live on the ground, but not all of these have ice-nucleation properties, which suggests that the airborne form is adapted to its aerial environment, just as much as is an albatross or a swift."

On Pterosaurs:

"Those bones, too, played the classic weight-against-strength game that all flying animals must play. That enormous skull had large holes in it, to cut down its weight. The bones as a whole developed extremely thin walls, especially in the later pterosaurs, and many were filled internally with air. But those bones still needed considerable strength to provide anchors to powerful muscles, and not to break with the first flap of those enormous wings. And so, thin walled as they were, they still needed many internal struts and buttresses. The microstructure of the bones was multilayered, involving spiral ‘bone bandages’, providing extra strength.  The breast bone and shoulder bones, in particular, needed to be large—to provide attachment surfaces for those large flight muscles—and robust.  Nevertheless, these could not be delicate, ‘ultra-light’ skeletons—and nor are those of modern birds. They have to be large and strong enough to withstand the forces involved in maintaining the animal in the air. The engineering properties of those skeletons became increasingly optimized through the Jurassic and Cretaceous, but they could not escape from physical laws."

On Bats:

"Bats have evolved wings that are a wonder of biomechanical engineering.  It is little wonder that when Count Dracula wishes to transform himself from vampire to flying creature of the night, he uses the form of a bat rather than a bird or insect. The mechanics of bat flight depend on a thin membrane that stretches between the highly elongated digits of its forelimbs, and this elongation is already present in bat fossils from the Eocene. It is yet another model for a wing, akin to the pterosaurs in the elongation of the digits, but retaining all five of them, instead of simply relying on one. And because the bat’s wing is literally alive, the membrane is equipped with a series of sensors that the bat can use to modify the shape of its wing as it flies, to make flight highly efficient and reduce drag. As a further adaptation to help their agility in flight, bat bones are remarkably flexible, as bats ‘renew’ them in life by replenishing them in collagen—a fact that has caught the attention of medical researchers who wonder whether there is an ability here that might one day be mimicked by our own osteoporosis-prone species.  Bat wings have adapted for a whole range of different ecologies. There are the superfast insect hunters, which have long and pointed wing tips, and can sometimes reach short bursts of horizontal flight approaching 100 mph,71 the equivalent of running the 100-metre sprint in just over 2 seconds. The hoverers, seeking out stationary insect prey or seeking nectar from flowers, have short rounded wingtips that allow for maximum manoeuvrability.

 

In bats there is a group of mammals that probably developed an airborne lifestyle from living within the tree canopy, that hunt insects and occasionally small birds, but that can also be vegetarian, like the fruit bats or, like the vampire bats, haematophagous (a word that Count Dracula would have appreciated)."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OTHER BOOKS:

 

On the Wing:  Insects, Pterosaurs, Birds, Bats and the Evolution of Animal Flight by David E. Alexander

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SPOILER ALERT!

SKELETONS UPDATE: Chapters 4, 5 & 6

Skeletons: The Frame of Life - Jan Zalasiewicz, Mark Williams

TITLE:  Skeletons:  The Frame of Life

 

AUTHORS:  Jan Zalasiewicz and Mark Williams

 

 ____________________

 

CHAPTER 4:  PLANT SKELETONS

 

Plant skeletons?!  As the author's state : 

"Are we talking about skeletons here, though? After all, we are now in the realm of plants, and not of animals that have mineralized bones, teeth,and shells. Nevertheless, the matter of trees and their kin represents rigid, biologically built structures that are so commonly fossilized that they provide us with an energy source—coal—potent enough to power much of our lives for the present, and in doing so to imperil our planet’s climate in the near future. We can consider the substance of trees as essentially skeletal."

 

This chapter deals primarily with plant evolution, the development of forests, the changing river morphologies as a result of plant growth, mobile plant skeletons such as tumble-weeds and pollen grains, and phytoliths.  I especially like that idea of the forest skeleton being the main cradle of life on land.

 

 

CHAPTER 5:  MEGA-SKELETONS

 

 

This chapter deals with coral reefs - the evolution of different types of reefs (including the bivalve reefs of the Cretaceous), as well as the different types of animals that the reef consists of, and how reefs develop.

"The coral rock platform is made up of the cup-like coral skeleton, which today is made of calcium carbonate in its mineral form aragonite, in which each coral animal lives. The individual cups, or corallites, interlinked in the vast building complexes of the coral colonies, are the key to the reef. They grow upwards, adding floor upon floor like the building up of a skyscraper. The coral animal itself is hoisted up in the process, so the skyscraper occupant moves up floor by floor, while the lower stories are abandoned. This construction adds the third dimension to the territorial control that they had gained by the repeated asexual division. That third dimension, as we will see, can develop over time to be of huge extent. It is what ultimately turns biology into geology."

 

 

 

CHAPTER 6:  MINI-SKELETONS

 

 

This chapter deals with microscopic organisms that produce skeletal structures, such as shells.  The author's also provide a brief history of microscopes, which allowed for the examination of microscopic organisms, and the advance in the study of microscopic organism.

 

SPOILER ALERT!

The Invaders by Pat Shipman

The Invaders: How Humans and Their Dogs Drove Neanderthals to Extinction - Donna Postel, Mary Raymond Shipman Andrews

TITLE:  The Invaders: How Humans and Their Dogs Drove Neanderthals to Extinction

 

AUTHOR:  Pat Shipman

 

NARRATOR:  Donna Postel

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2015

 

FORMAT:  Audiobook

 

ISBN-13:  9781494563097

____________________________

 

DESCRIPTION:

"Approximately 200,000 years ago, as modern humans began to radiate out from their evolutionary birthplace in Africa, Neanderthals were already thriving in Europe-descendants of a much earlier migration of the African genus Homo. But when modern humans eventually made their way to Europe 45,000 years ago, Neanderthals suddenly vanished. Ever since the first Neanderthal bones were identified in 1856, scientists have been vexed by the question, why did modern humans survive while their evolutionary cousins went extinct? The Invaders musters compelling evidence to show that the major factor in the Neanderthals' demise was direct competition with newly arriving humans. Drawing on insights from the field of invasion biology, Pat Shipman traces the devastating impact of a growing human population: reduction of Neanderthals' geographic range, isolation into small groups, and loss of genetic diversity. But modern humans were not the only invaders who competed with Neanderthals for big game. Shipman reveals fascinating confirmation of humans' partnership with the first domesticated wolf-dogs soon after Neanderthals first began to disappear. This alliance between two predator species, she hypothesizes, made possible an unprecedented degree of success in hunting large Ice Age mammals-a distinct and ultimately decisive advantage for humans over Neanderthals at a time when climate change made both groups vulnerable."

 

____________________________

DISCLAIMER:

 

I do not have a good relationship with audiobook - I tend to wool gather or fall asleep while listening to them. So I might have missed something and couldn't flip back to check.

____________________________

REVIEW:

 

This book is something of a detective/mystery novel where the author tries to find out why the Neanderthals went extinct.  Her hypothesis makes use of ecological theory to suggest that modern humans have the same effect on the environment as any other invasive species competing with native animals for the same/similar resources - thus Neanderthals and other megafauna could have survived the cold climate at the time but could not survive the climate and the additional competition with modern humans and their pet wolves/dogs.  The changing climate, changing food sources, other animals in the area, generic invasive species and their effects, hunting techniques, the arrival of modern humans, competition for the same/similar resources, as well as the domestication of wolves/dogs is discussed. The title of the book doesn't really fit with Shipman's hypothesis though, as according to the text, Neanderthals were already on their way out before homo sapiens (aka modern humans) migrated into Eurasia and the semi-domesticated wolf-dogs only arrived (according to available fossil evidence) after the Neanderthals were gone.  The dogs only make an appearance about 3/4 through the book, if anyone is looking specifically for that information. 

 

I'm not entirely convinced by her argument.  The timing is a bit erratic, with Neanderthal populations declining before modern humans arrived and a large time gap between Neanderthals and domesticated wolves.  She also doesn't take into account that dogs were domesticated from an extinct species of wolf that might not have behaved in the same way as the Grey wolves used in her study (she generally ignored all the other canid species and their interactions with humans).  The author admits that there isn't enough evidence currently to say whether her hypothesis is correct or not, and that new advances in dating and additional fossil sites are required to either prove/disprove her hypothesis.  Shipman's hypothesis of why modern humans domesticated wolves/dogs and Neanderthals didn't, is fairly interesting and new information seems to provide some confirming evidence.  There is also some issue with her stating that Neanderthals ate only meat and didn't change their diet (especially in comparison with brown bear diet changes), when other studies state that some Neanderthals ate meat, others a mix, and some others ate mostly vegetables and thus changed their diet.  There is also no mention of Denisovians (probably due to lack of evidence at time of publication).  The DNA data on Neanderthal-Modern Human hybridization/interbreeding is also out of date.  This makes me wonder what else is out of date and how that effects the hypothesis.

 

Pat Shipman helpfully makes a point of differentiating between speculation and inferences from hard, empirical evidence.  There is a lot of space dedicated to dating of specific finds and analysis of particular fossil evidence.  She does however, tend to repeat herself too often and harp on the same theme far too much (I got that humans are an invasive species after the first paragraph, I didn't need a whole chapter on the subject and several reminders throughout the book). 

 

An interesting, but flawed, book.

 

 

NOTE ON AUDIOBOOK:  Postel has a pleasant voice, narrates well and at a decent speed.

 

Humanity's Best Friend: How Dogs May Have Helped Humans Beat the Neanderthals

The Evolution of Puppy Dog Eyes

Some Neanderthals Were Vegetarian — And They Likely Kissed Our Human Ancestors

 

 

 

 

 

MACBETH - Act V

Macbeth - William Shakespeare

The Tragedy of Macbeth

by William Shakespeare

 

 

[Folger Paperback Edition

&

Arkangel Audiobook]

 

**************************************

!!SPOILERS!!

****************************************

 

Act V is rather fast paced with lots of short scenes and different settings.  Lady Macbeth's guilty conscience has caught up with her and she is now sleep walking and talking ["Out, damned spot; out, I say. . . . Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?"].  Macbeth is rather more preoccupied with the English forces lead by Malcolm and Macduff, than he is with his wife's troubles. Macbeth believes himself to be invincible, right until his servant tells him that Birnam Wood has aquired legs.  Lady Macbeth decides to solve her problems permanently. Macbeth doesn't seem to care overly much.  It seems like the Macbeth marriage couldn't withstand a murder.

 

There are several battle scenes (no doubt providing the theatre audience with a great deal of swashbuckling entertainment), with Macbeth still convinced that no man can defeat him.  However, Macbeth gets rather rattled when Macduff blithely informs him that he was "from his mother's womb untimely ripped".  Macbeth comes to a deserved and permanent end, Macduff gets his revenge and Malcolm gets the crown.  No mention is made of Fleance.  Macbeth has made quite a transformation; from a respected war hero, to murderer, to complete tyrant; from having almost everything, to having nothing.

 

And so ends the Tragedy of Macbeth, a 400 year old political/psychological drama.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Death Waits in the Dark by Julia Buckley

Death Waits in the Dark - Julia Buckley

TITLE:  Death Waits in the Dark

 

SERIES:  A Writer's Apprentice Mystery #4

 

AUTHOR:  Julia Buckley

_______________________________

DESCRIPTION:

"Writer's apprentice Lena London is back and better than ever when her friend bestselling suspense novelist Camilla Graham needs help solving a town murder that hits a little too close to home...

It's summertime, and Lena and Camilla are busy working away while a town vandal runs amok. Things get even more complicated when Jane Wyland pays Camilla a not-so-friendly visit and gives her an ultimatum: reveal Camilla's husband James's family secret, or she will. Lena assures Camilla that nothing will come of the woman's threats, since the family has no secrets to hide.

When Jane Wyland is later found dead, they're convinced that whatever secret she was planning to expose led to her death. With Lena's assistance, Camilla is determined to solve the case before the finger points at her...
"

________________________________

REVIEW:

 

Nancy Drew for Adults.  An entertaining cozy mystery novel.    My only problem is that the main character and her circle of friends are far too nice and perfect.

 

 

SPOILER ALERT!

MACBETH - Act IV

Macbeth - William Shakespeare

The Tragedy of Macbeth

by William Shakespeare

 

 

[Folger Paperback Edition

&

Arkangel Audiobook]

 

**************************************

!!SPOILERS!!

****************************************

 

In Act IV, the witches or weird (wyrd?) sisters make a rather lengthy appearance, with a suitable amount of magic and ambiguious visions.  Here we have the famous "none of woman born / shall harm Macbeth" prophecy and the "walking woods" prophecy that implies that Macbeth cannot be defeated until Birnam Wood moves toward Dunsinane Hill.  Sorry Shakespeare, but I still prefer J.R.R. Tolkien's version of fulfilling these prophecies.  Marching with chopped up branches simply does not compete with Ents, and some semantical finagling does not compare to Eowyn or Merry.

 

Macbeth is also not amused that Macduff has fled to England and decides to commit more murders, by proxy.  Apparently these murders don't seem to bother Macbeth as much as the others - no hallucinations!  Charming man this.  Prince Malcolm makes a reappearance and decides to invade Scotland with the help of Macduff, who is out for revenge.  Silly man should have take his wife and children with him!

 

 

 

SPOILER ALERT!

MACBETH - Act III

Macbeth - William Shakespeare

The Tragedy of Macbeth

by William Shakespeare

 

 

[Folger Paperback Edition

&

Arkangel Audiobook]

 

**************************************

!!SPOILERS!!

****************************************

 

 

Act III of Macbeth, in which Banquo wonders about the future; Macbeth plans murder (again), this time by proxy; Macbeth takes charge of decision making; the Macbeths' seem to be having marriage issues; a murder is bungled; Macbeth has ghostly hallucinations at a formal banquet and makes a fool of himself; MacDuff makes himself inconspicuous; Hecate chastises the witches for leaving her out of their plans; and the other lords are suspicious of Macbeth's involvement in the murders.  Macbeth is quite clearly loosing his sanity and his power.  At school the discussion came up that Macbeth was loosing his humanity, but since humans seem to be rather fond of rape, mayhem and murder, I don't really agree with this.  Shakespears use of lighting (setting sun, torches, the striking out of the light) to contrast "good" and "bad" characters is also interesting and sets an ominous mood.

 

Just out of curiousity:  does Macbeth have a first name since MAC means "son of"?  The Macbeth of the play is supposed to be based on Mac Bethad mac Findláich.

 

Nights of the Round Table + by Tanya Huff

Nights of the Round Table and Other Stories of Heroic Fantasy - Tanya Huff

TITLE:  Nights of the Round Table and Other Stories of Heroic Fantasy

 

AUTHOR:  Tanya Huff

 

DESCRIPTION:

"Explore uncharted territory in this collection of heroic fantasy shorts from Tanya Huff. Annotations provide background and insight on each story. Peppered with Huffs trademark tongue-in-cheek wit and the brilliant, funny, wise, ruthless heroines that have made her famous, this is a collection you wont want to miss. Travel to Camelot in Nights of the Round Table and to ancient Egypt in Succession. Revisit beloved fairytales in All Things Being Relative. Sail the seas in Blood in the Water and Oh Glorious Sight. Also includes What Little Girls Are Made Of, A Womans Work, and Slow Poison."

 

REVIEW:

A beautifully written collection of Tanya Huff's entertaining short fantasy stories that all have some unusual or clever twist.  These stories are witty and provide much needed mirth in today's gloomy world.

 

SPOILER ALERT!

MACBETH - Act II

Macbeth - William Shakespeare

The Tragedy of Macbeth

by William Shakespeare

 

 

[Folger Paperback Edition

&

Arkangel Audiobook]

 

**************************************

!!SPOILERS!!

****************************************

 

The second Act of Macbeth deals with King Duncan's murder - the preliminary planning, the immediate consequences of the deed, the discovery of the murder, the flight of Duncan's sons, and the election of Macbeth as king.  We don't actually get to see/read about the murder.  Macbeth is getting a bit paranoid and delusional in this act - seeing visions and hearing things.  It's a bit late to grow a conscience after your commited the murder.  What I find interesting in the symbolic use of birds in this Act.  The owl hunting the falcon, the ravens on the battlements, hooting owls, the crowing cock, etc. 

 

AUDIOBOOK NOTE:  I found the porter's performance to be absolutely hilarious! 

 

 

 

SPOILER ALERT!

MACBETH - Front Matter & Act I

Macbeth - William Shakespeare

The Tragedy of Macbeth

by William Shakespeare

 

 

[Folger Paperback Edition

&

Arkangel Audiobook]

 

**************************************

I last studied this play in school, so that's a long time ago.  However, I'm finding it much more enjoyable this time round, no doubt due to the lack of required dissecting and being "forced" to read it and being tested on it.

 

**********

The Folger edition has some goodies included before the play.  An editors preface which tells you what the editors did and why; a bit of history about the play; a commentary of how to read Shakespeare's language; a short biography of the  man;  commentary about theatre in Shakespeare's time, and commentary about the publication of the plays.  These all provide solid and interesting additions to the play.  There is also an assay on the modern perspective of Macbeth after the play, as well as a further reading section.

 

The Folger edition has explanatory notes on the left page, and the text to the play on the right-hand page, which is rather more useful than flipping to the back of the book, or having one page cluttered with text and extra-notes.

 

**********

I also listened to the Arkangel fully dramatised recording of Macbeth.  Not being an audiobook fan I found the experience interesting (accents, sound effects and actors that actually sounded excited) and the production rather good, though I did have moments of the usual wool-gathering.

 

************

Macbeth is a political drama/tragedy that happens to be a ghost story too.  I'm not going to summarise the contents of the first Act, but lets just say:  the witches are "poop"-stirrers, Macbeth needs to grow a spine or at least learn to tell his wife "No!" and stick with his decision, and Lady Macbeth.... well....lets just say I'm grateful that she isn't my mother-in-law - you never know what she's going to add to the cooking! Though I do wonder if she would have felt that way, or acted the way she did, if she actually had children?  Or had more life options than marriage and organising a castle?  Or maybe she would have transferred her ambitions for her husband to ambitions for the kids, or both?  There are some fine soliloquies and dialogues in the first Act.  We end with a murder planned but not yet executed! 

 

**********************

The play was based (loosely) on a real King Duncan (a horrible king) and Macbeth, who managed to rule for 17 years.  The Real Duncan and Macbeth

 

 

SKELETONS UPDATE: Chapter 3

Skeletons: The Frame of Life - Jan Zalasiewicz, Mark Williams

TITLE:  Skeletons:  The Frame of Life

 

AUTHORS:  Jan Zalasiewicz and Mark Williams

_________________________

 

A SHELL ON THE INSIDE

 

Chapter 3 deals with the development of skeletons on the inside of animals and evolution of vertebrates.  I felt that this chapter focused a bit too much on the generic evolution of animals and not enough on what was actually going on with the skeletons.  However, this chapter did mention the development of eggs and amniotes, armoured fish, conodonts, the development of teeth and jaws, bone fertilizer, and the internal skeletons of echinoderms (starfish & sea urchins), which was rather interesting.

 

 

"These beautiful fossils, though, seem to break the vertebrate rules.  Our bones are emphatically on the inside—and yet here were these fish with hard carapaces, seemingly playing the same game as the arthropods.  Indeed, they have been generally termed ostracoderms (meaning ‘shell skinned’). [...]  Examine that armour closely, and there is another shock. The armour plating, whether as thousands of button-like scales or sheets of armour, is made of the mineral apatite, chemically calcium phosphate, the same as our bones. But structurally this early fish armour is not like our bones, which are secreted by special bone cells. Here, the lustrous surface is formed of hard enamel, below which is dentine, with scattered pulp cavities. Structurally, these are teeth, surrounding the animal on the outside, and designed for protection and not for biting. Even Salvador Dali’s imagination would not have thought up an arrangement like this. So—where did these strange fish come from, and how did they then lead to the more familiar vertebrates of our times, which typically carry their bones deep within their soft tissues?"

 

 OTHER BOOKS:

 

 

*Incredible Unlikeliness of Being:  Evolution and the Making of Us by Alice Roberts

 

* Your Inner Fish:  The Amazing Discovery of Our 375-million-year-old Ancestor by Neil Shubin

 

* Restless:  The Story of Life in Ten Movements by Matt Wilkinson

 

* TED TALK  Either https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQa11RMCeSI

               OR  https://www.ted.com/talks/jack_horner_shape_shifting_dinosaurs/transcript

 

 

 

 

SPOILER ALERT!

Skeletons Update: Chapter 1 & 2

Skeletons: The Frame of Life - Jan Zalasiewicz, Mark Williams

TITLE:  Skeletons:  The Frame of Life

 

AUTHORS:  Jan Zalasiewicz and Mark Williams

_________________________

 

This is an interesting book so far.  The book includes information that I haven't come across before.  Personal descriptions and biographies are kept to a minimum and include things that are actually interesting and relevant to the topic.  The first chapter explored the origin of a variety of skeletal structures in the Cambrian and possibly before that.  Chapter two deals with exoskeletons - the evolution external skeletons, size issues with exoskeletons, loss of exoskeletons, armour-plating, the rise of the arthropods, creatures with shells, and the like.  Chapter three will explore internal skeletons.

 

From Chapter 2:

"But there are some very strange things about this molluscan argonaut.  It can, for instance, leave this shell completely, unlike any other  mollusc—and so sharp debates grew between savants as to whether  it was its own shell, or one that it had appropriated, just as hermit  crabs make use of discarded gastropod shells as mobile homes. And, between two of its tentacles, it has a sheet of soft tissue. Aristotle, at about 330, described this tissue as a sail, by which the argonaut caught the wind to sail across the sea surface, rather like the ship of its mythical namesakes. This was a vision that persisted for more than two millennia, being reprised much later by Lord Byron and Alexander Pope in their poems, and by Jules Verne in his epic novel 20 000 Leagues under the Sea. 

 

Enter Jeanne Villepreux, the daughter of a mostly illiterate family in Juillac, in southern France. After a series of family difficulties—the death of a sister and mother, the arrival of a young stepmother—in 1812, at age 18, she made the 480-kilometre journey to Paris, on foot, with a flock of animals destined for the abattoir, and in the care of a cousin. The cousin attacked her partway through the journey, and she sought refuge in a gendarmerie, then a convent. Eventually she arrived in Paris alone, with no place to go to or prospect of work. As one of her biographers put it, chance can sometimes be merciful. A dressmaker took pity on her, and took her on as a seamstress.  Unlike her siblings, she could at least read and write, and she learnt quickly, soon excelling at her new trade. A short few years later, when Princess Caroline of Sicily married the King’s nephew, the Duc de Berry, it was the young Jeanne who designed the wedding dress. During the festivities, a young English businessman,James Power, saw her, and fell in love. They married—and she started a new life as a rich émigré wife in Sicily.


Jeanne Villepreux-Power, as she now was, did not spend her life doing the social rounds, but instead became fascinated by the natural history of the island, and particularly the marine life. To get closer to the sea creatures, she needed some means of studying them at close quarters. To do this, she designed and had built a glass box filled with seawater —and thus became the inventor of the aquarium. She built three of these structures, two of which were placed within the sea, and one on land.  Among the creatures she studied were the argonauts, having heard of the scientific dispute as to the nature of their shells. They were common in the seas around Sicily, and she thought herself well placed to get to the truth. Her confidence was well placed. She collected argonaut eggs, hatched them, and day by day, observed what happened. After a few days, tiny shells appeared—so clearly these were made by the organisms, and were not borrowed or stolen. And she saw that the delicate membranes that Aristotle took to be sails were the secretory organs for shell material, and could be used to repair as well as to build these delicate shells.


Unlike other women scientists of the day, her achievements were recognized by the almost exclusively male-dominated scientific establishment, and she became a member of not one but 16 scientific academies across Europe. Even the formidable Richard Owen, inventor of the Dinosauria and a man with notoriously sharp elbows when it came to jostling for academic position, heaped praise upon her."

So, now you know who invented the first aquarium!

 

OTHER BOOKS:

 

* Planet of the Bugs: Evolution and the Rise of Insects by Scott Richard Shaw

 

* Squid Empire: The Rise and Fall of the Cephalopods by Danna Staaf

* Trilobite!: Eyewitness to Evolution by Richard Fortey

* Spirals in Time: The Secret Life and Curious Afterlife of Seashells by Helen Scales

 

SPOILER ALERT!

Extinction by Douglas H. Erwin

Extinction: How Life on Earth Nearly Ended 250 Million Years Ago - Douglas H. Erwin

TITLE: Extinction: How Life on Earth Nearly Ended 250 Million Years Ago

 

AUTHOR:  Douglas H. Erwin

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2015 Updated Edition - New Preface (first publication 2006)

 

FORMAT:  Paperback

 

ISBN-13:  9780691165653

_______________________________

DESCRIPTION:

 

"Some 250 million years ago, the earth suffered the greatest biological crisis in its history. Around 95 percent of all living species died out--a global catastrophe far greater than the dinosaurs' demise 185 million years later. How this happened remains a mystery. But there are many competing theories. Some blame huge volcanic eruptions that covered an area as large as the continental United States; others argue for sudden changes in ocean levels and chemistry, including burps of methane gas; and still others cite the impact of an extraterrestrial object, similar to what caused the dinosaurs' extinction.

Extinction is a paleontological mystery story. Here, the world's foremost authority on the subject provides a fascinating overview of the evidence for and against a whole host of hypotheses concerning this cataclysmic event that unfolded at the end of the Permian.

After setting the scene, Erwin introduces the suite of possible perpetrators and the types of evidence paleontologists seek. He then unveils the actual evidence--moving from China, where much of the best evidence is found; to a look at extinction in the oceans; to the extraordinary fossil animals of the Karoo Desert of South Africa. Erwin reviews the evidence for each of the hypotheses before presenting his own view of what happened.

Although full recovery took tens of millions of years, this most massive of mass extinctions was a powerful creative force, setting the stage for the development of the world as we know it today.

In a new preface, Douglas Erwin assesses developments in the field since the book's initial publication."

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REVIEW:

 

 

*************************************SPOILERS***********************************************

 

Erwin provides us with an entertaining, informative and somewhat technical "whodunit" detective story, examining the "culprits" that may be responsible for the end-Permian mass extinction.  The author examines the various geological and paleontological evidence for what happened, when and what effects this may have had; and then tries to piece together which of several hypotheses are the more likely culprites of the extinction and which are just effects. 

 

The six major hypotheses that show some supporting data, and which Erwin focuses on, are as follows:

(1) an extraterrestrial impact of the some sort;

(2) extensive volcanism that produced the Siberian flood basalts (possibly triggered by an extraterrestrial impact), that radically changed the global climate and geochemistry;

(3) continental drift (plate tectonics) with the formation of Pangaea that caused an extensive reduction in biome types;

(4) extensive glaciation that caused a combination of global cooling and a drop in sea levels;

(5) a decrease in oxygen in shallow and deep seas due to one of several possible causes; and

(6) the "Murder on the Orient Express" hypothesis suggesting that a combination of several or all of the other already described events occurred nearly simultaneously

 

Erwin very helpfully comments on the strenght or weaknesses of the various hypotheses, and finally provides his conclusion based on the evidence.  Erwin also takes a look at the recovery of organisms AFTER the extinction, which is something few authors do.  However, the book was originally published in 2006, so some of this information is outdated or been superseededby additional information.  Erwin does discuss the new findings in his 2015 preface, for an up-to-date examination of the end Pemian extinction.  Despite new research into this topic, it seems like the author's "Murder on the Orient Express" hypotheses, where a variety of factors are responsible for the mass extinction, still seems to be valid.

 

 

Other useful books:

 

-When Life Nearly Died:  The Greatest Mass Extinction of All Time by Michael J. Benton

-The Worst of Times:  How Life on Earth Survived Eighty Million Years of Extinctions by Paul B. Wignall

-Life on a Young Planet:  The First Three Billion Years of Evolution on Earth by Andrew H. Knoll

-The Goldilocks Planet:  The Four Billion Year Story of Earth's Climate by Jan Zalasiewicz and Mark Williams

-The Ends of the World:  Supervolcanoes, Lethal Oceans, and the Search for Past Apocalypses by Peter Brannen

-The Emerald Planet:  How Plants Changed Earth's History by David Beerling

 

 

 

 

The Flat Book Society: July's Read is Starting

Reblogged from BrokenTune :
Skeletons: The Frame of Life - Jan Zalasiewicz, Mark Williams

Hello,

 

Just to say that July has started and this means we are starting the next Flat Book Society read: Skeletons: The Frame of Life.

 

Here's what the publishers say:

Over half a billion years ago life on earth took an incredible step in evolution, when animals learned to build skeletons. Using many different materials, from calcium carbonate and phosphate, and even silica, to make shell and bone, they started creating the support structures that are now critical to most living forms, providing rigidity and strength. Manifesting in a vast variety of forms, they provided the framework for sophisticated networks of life that fashioned the evolution of Earth's oceans, land, and atmosphere. Within a few tens of millions of years, all of the major types of skeleton had appeared. 

Skeletons enabled an unprecedented array of bodies to evolve, from the tiniest seed shrimp to the gigantic dinosaurs and blue whales. The earliest bacterial colonies constructed large rigid structures - stromatolites - built up by trapping layers of sediment, while the mega-skeleton that is the Great Barrier Reef is big enough to be visible from space. The skeletons of millions of coccolithophores that lived in the shallow seas of the Mesozoic built the white cliffs of Dover. These, and insects, put their scaffolding on the outside, as an exoskeleton, while vertebrates have endoskeletons. Plants use tubes of dead tissue for rigidity and transport of liquids - which in the case of tall trees need to be strong enough to extend 100 m or more from the ground. Others simply stitch together a coating from mineral grains on the seabed. 

In Skeletons, Jan Zalasiewicz and Mark Williams explore the incredible variety of the skeleton innovations that have enabled life to expand into a wide range of niches and lifestyles on the planet. Discussing the impact of climate change, which puts the formation of some kinds of skeleton at risk, they also consider future skeletons, including the possibility that we might increasingly incorporate metal and plastic elements into our own, as well as the possible materials for skeleton building on other planets.

 

I'll start this book tonight or tomorrow.

 

Who else is in?

 

 

On a related but different note of Flat Book Society housekeeping, the votes have been cleared and the nominations page is again open for your suggestions and votes. 

 

Huggins was keen to show off his skeletal structure in keeping with this month's book theme but on second thought decided against it, as people might think he's gone AWOL. 

Turtles as Hopeful Monsters by Olivier Rieppel

Turtles as Hopeful Monsters: Origins and Evolution (Life of the Past) - Olivier Rieppel

TITLE:  Turtles as Hopeful Monsters:  Origins and Evolution

 

AUTHOR:  Olivier Rieppel

 

DATE PUBLISHED:   2017

 

FORMAT:  Hardcover

 

ISBN-13:  9780253024756

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DESCRIPTION:

"Where do turtles hail from? Why and how did they acquire shells? These questions have spurred heated debate and intense research for more than two hundred years. Brilliantly weaving evidence from the latest paleontological discoveries with an accessible, incisive look at different theories of biological evolution and their proponents, Turtles as Hopeful Monsters tells the fascinating evolutionary story of the shelled reptiles. Paleontologist Olivier Rieppel traces the evolution of turtles from over 220 million years ago, examining closely the relationship of turtles to other reptiles and charting the development of the shell. Turtle issues fuel a debate between proponents of gradual evolutionary change and authors favoring change through bursts and leaps of macromutation. The first book-length popular history of its type, this indispensable resource is an engaging read for all those fascinated by this ubiquitous and uniquely shaped reptile."

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REVIEW:

 

This is an article about turtle evolution, excessively padded with biographical and historical material to turn it into a short book.  The information about turtles was technical and interesting, but the reader has to sift through vast quanitites of (mostly irrelevant) text on various researchers (including the author) - their biographies, places of residence and work, politics, field trips, historical context and the like.  Turtles only make an appearance halfway through the book.  This made the whole book rather tedious despite the interesting examination of  turtle evolutionary developmental history.  The book also covers the development of evolutionary theory and cladistics.  Some sketches and graphics were included, but nothing particularly exciting or useful.

 

 

OTHER RECOMMENDED BOOK

 

Voyage of the Turtle: In Pursuit of the Earth's Last Dinosaur by Carl Safina

 

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PS: I just found more useful diagrams and information on turtle evolution looking for diagrams to add to this review!

 

 

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INTERESTING TURTLE ARTICLES

 

A Glowing Sea Turtle: World's First Bioflourescent Reptile

 

Turtle Origins

 

More About Turtles

 

What's the Difference between Turtle, Tortoise & Terrapin?

 

 

 

 

Currently reading

Werehunter by Mercedes Lackey
Progress: 92/288pages
Your Brain, Explained: What Neuroscience Reveals about Your Brain and its Quirks by Marc Dingman
Skeletons: The Frame of Life by Jan Zalasiewicz, Mark Williams
Progress: 195/320pages