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Oxytropidoceras posted a topic in Fossil NewsFossils key to fulfilling Darwin's 160-year-old prediction December 12, 2018, University of Salford https://phys.org/news/2018-12-fossils-key-fulfilling-darwin-year-old.html The paper is: Beck R.M.D., and Baillie C. 2018. Improvements in the fossil record may largely resolve current conflicts between morphological and molecular estimates of mammal phylogeny. Proc. R. Soc. B. 285: 20181632. https://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2018/07/20/373191 https://www.biorxiv.org/content/biorxiv/early/2018/07/20/373191.full.pdf https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rspb.2018.1632 Yours, Paul H.
Oxytropidoceras posted a topic in Fossil NewsEvidence suggests life on Earth started after meteorites splashed into warm little ponds, PhysOrg, October 2, 2017 https://phys.org/news/2017-10-evidence-life-earth-meteorites-splashed.html How did Life Start? Meteorites crashing into Darwin's Little Warm Ponds May Have been Trigger, by Megham Bartels, Newsweek. http://www.newsweek.com/2017/10/27/how-did-life-start-meteorites-crashing-darwins-warm-little-ponds-was-possible-675655.html The paper is: Pearce, B.K., Pudritz, R.E., Semenov, D.A. and Henning, T.K., 2017. Origin of the RNA world: The fate of nucleobases in warm little ponds. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 114 no. 43, pp. 11327-11332 http://www.pnas.org/content/114/43/11327 https://arxiv.org/pdf/1710.00434.pdf Yours, Paul H.
a book review of: "The Monkey's Bridge: Mysteries of Evolution in Central America" by David Rains Wallace. Trinity University Press trade paperback edition (originally published by Sierra Club Books, 1997). 277 pages. Suggested Retail: $18.95 USD. The formation of the Isthmus of Panama, the land bridge connecting the Americas, was the most recent, significant tectonic event of the Cenozoic Era. It occurred just over three million years ago and carried with it not only local but also global consequences. The land connection allowed terrestrial plants and animals to invade new territories north and south as it also cut off a seaway between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. It would later pose a confounding and deadly obstacle course to Old World explorers and fortune-hunters - a land untamed even into the 20th century. "The Monkey's Bridge" tells three stories: how the Isthmus of Panama evolved in geologic time; how Europeans discovered Central America across the past five hundred years and how the author arrived at his understanding of it across his adult life. David Rains Wallace is an award-winning natural history writer. He has also collaborated with the National Park Service publishing handbooks about Yellowstone and Mammoth Cave. His research leading to the "The Monkey's Bridge" involved extensive travel through the Americas which also produced his earlier book about Costa Rica's national parks (Wallace, 1992). Following a 10-page prologue, the book is composed of two parts: Exploration and Evolution. Part 1 introduces the European explorers and naturalists who encountered the landforms, organisms, and native peoples of Central America. Part 2 focuses on the landforms, organisms, and peoples themselves. While the first part could be said to be the history section with the second, the prehistory section, the paleontology of the region is also discussed in the first and historic figures reappear in the second. Across both parts Wallace recalls his own trips taken from 1971 to 1994, traveling by hitchhiking, by bus, and often on foot. Wallace writes in a very literate but also readable style different from the comparatively flat descriptions of people, places, and things in the average paleo-related story. It's the difference between a professional travel writer and a scientist who is also a writer. He looks for more connections between history, art, and science while a scientist writing the same book might translate the technical into the popular without unpacking as many adjectives. While this book is clearly well-researched as Wallace cites several publications and quotes numerous people, the reader might sense that he is not a scientist from a few minor fumbles. He refers to the Florida Museum of Natural History twice as the Florida State Museum (p. 70, 71). He thinks that extinct horses did not have toes - just hooves (which he calls "hoofs"). In reality they did have hooves on their toes. Related to that, he notes that "three-toed horses were replaced by larger two-toed horses." Actually, three-toed horses had one-toed descendants without a two-toed transition. Wallace does reveal a good knowledge of today's plants and animals of the Americas. He recognizes species he didn't expect to see in Central America - forms seemingly more at home in parts of the United States. They add more diversity to the picture of the intercontinental exchange of organisms after the formation of the isthmus. Other than a map at the beginning of each of the two parts of the text, there are no illustrations. The writing will hold the attention of the average natural history fan and perhaps even interest the more casual reader used to more visual support. However, I think when dealing with extinct organisms and colorful living ones, an author should include some photos and figures to break up the text. Wallace did not feature much illustration in his "Beasts of Eden" (2004) a book about two museum murals, but he did in his "Neptune's Ark (2007), which discusses several extinct animals of the west coast of North America. Even with so little illustration I highly recommend "The Monkey's Bridge" to anyone interested in natural history. It is very informative with an excellent mainstream explanation of the geologic processes that created the Isthmus of Panama. Throughout the book, the reader travels along and experiences the author's first-timer surprise in different areas of the land bridge: the limited stretches of jungle, the sudden expanses of near-desert, and the abrupt changes in elevation. Wallace meets interesting people, visits remote museums, and seems to find himself on the edge of a bad situation more than a few times so it is an adventure well worth reading. Jess