“I, Mammal: Th Story Of What Makes Us Mammals” by Liam Drew
Finished reading on April 13th, 2020
A few months ago I was looking for a book that would tell me more about lactation and how it evolved in mammals. Main reason for it – breastfeeding my child and pondering how it’s the most natural way to provide nutrition for an infant and yet we as humans also use the products of some other species’ lactation, and how it’s all quite weird.
This book looks at how mammals differ from other kinds of animals- not just in possessing mammary glands- and how one small change in some part of physiology led to a change in another part and ended up producing a plethora of weird and wonderful creatures.
It was an interesting book to read for sure. But as with reading probably just about any book on evolutionary biology – the end is quite poignant. Although mammals have existed in various forms for millions of years, by now humans and their domesticated animals make up most of the biomass in case of mammals…
But let’s get to the more fun bits. It was fascinating to read (and tell my partner) about why scrotums might positioned the way they are and how not every mammal has an even number of mammary glands and how hooded seals nurse their pups for a really short time and lose a lot of weight while pups grow at exceptional rates.
I found it illuminating and it left me yearning to read more evolutionary biology books at popular science level.
I’d highly recommend this to any male or female mammal reading this blog post!
Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin
Finished reading on April 28, 2014
This book tracks down some of the connections between the anatomy of the human body to some of the ancestors of mammals and other land-living animals. It contains snippets from paleontology, genetics and anatomy, with quite a lot of new words if you’re usually not reading books of this type, but everything is explained well enough to make concepts understandable and you’ll be able to get the main points with little knowledge of paleontology and anatomy, the genetics part might stay a bit blurry without any previous knowledge though.
It was a fascinating book for me as I found out a lot of things that I didn’t know before or hadn’t heard of.
For example you can read about the evolution of limbs – starting with fish and continuing with reptiles and mammals with the main focus on the link between fishes and reptiles and about a species that lived about 375 million years ago, called Tiktaalik – that has some reptilian characteristics but is essentially a fish.
This theme continues with one part of the human body or another – teeth, eyes, etc. Shubin shows some of our distant relatives, how they are different but also how they are similar to us.
There’s some history in the book and you can also read about how some of the fossils were discovered that are discussed in the book.
It is a rather short book and a quick read once you get started. Although there was a myriad of strange words in it (as I didn’t learn biology in English, but the words would be familiar to those who did) I found it enjoyable and interesting.
I loved it. Once in a while it’s good to step out of my astronomy and physics comfort zone and discover something new 🙂