Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters

Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters

Donald R. Prothero

Language: English

Pages: 408

ISBN: 0231139624

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Over the past twenty years, paleontologists have made tremendous fossil discoveries, including fossils that mark the growth of whales, manatees, and seals from land mammals and the origins of elephants, horses, and rhinos. Today there exists an amazing diversity of fossil humans, suggesting we walked upright long before we acquired large brains, and new evidence from molecules that enable scientists to decipher the tree of life as never before.

The fossil record is now one of the strongest lines of evidence for evolution. In this engaging and richly illustrated book, Donald R. Prothero weaves an entertaining though intellectually rigorous history out of the transitional forms and series that dot the fossil record. Beginning with a brief discussion of the nature of science and the "monkey business of creationism," Prothero tackles subjects ranging from flood geology and rock dating to neo-Darwinism and macroevolution. He covers the ingredients of the primordial soup, the effects of communal living, invertebrate transitions, the development of the backbone, the reign of the dinosaurs, the mammalian explosion, and the leap from chimpanzee to human. Prothero pays particular attention to the recent discovery of "missing links" that complete the fossil timeline and details the debate between biologists over the mechanisms driving the evolutionary process.

Evolution is an absorbing combination of firsthand observation, scientific discovery, and trenchant analysis. With the teaching of evolution still an issue, there couldn't be a better moment for a book clarifying the nature and value of fossil evidence. Widely recognized as a leading expert in his field, Prothero demonstrates that the transformation of life on this planet is far more awe inspiring than the narrow view of extremists.














dramatic transformations in the forams that could be shown. For example, in the Pliocene, one of the common planktonic forams is Globigerinoides sacculifer (Kennett and Srinivasan 1983), which has a shell shaped like a series of porous oblong bubbles clustered together in a spiral arrangement (fig. 8.5A). Through the many cores that sample the Pliocene oceans we can find more and more specimens that develop these long slender finger-like extensions all over the final few chambers. As you move up

the cores, these little “fingers” become longer and more common. These creatures are so distinct from the ancestral lineage that they branched away from that they are given their own species: Globigerinoides fistulosus (they do indeed look like little fists). Another common trend is the gradual evolution of foraminfera with flatter chambers and keels along the edges from species with more primitive bubble-shaped chambers. These trends can be seen in the evolution of keeled Morozovella from

did, however, use the classic textbook, Hunter’s Civic Biology, which mentioned evolution prominently. Once the trial was underway, Darrow’s defense plans collapsed because Judge John T. Raulston would not allow the testimony of any of the expert scientific witnesses that Darrow had brought. The judge ruled that the case only concerned whether Scopes had broken the law, and witnesses challenging the law itself were irrelevant. In desperation, Darrow turned this defeat into one of the greatest

Some Backbone! It’s a Long Way From Amphioxus Jaws: The Evolutionary Story 10 Fish Out of Water The Great Leap Upward Lobe Fins Lead the Way Four on the Floor 11 Onto the Land and Back to the Sea: The Amniotes Innovative Eggs Evolution of the Great Sea Dragons Snakes with Legs and Hopping Crocodiles 12 Dinosaurs Evolve—and Fly Dinosaur Transitions Lifestyles of the Huge and Ancient Dinosaurs are Alive! 13 Mammalian Explosion From Amniote to Synapsid to Mammals

well as simple corals or sponges, while others have evolved more sophisticated ways of living. Corals and sponges, although simple compared to other organisms, are not “lower” organisms nor are they evolutionary failures for not advancing up the ladder. They are good at doing what they do (and have been doing for over 500 million years), and they exploit their own niches in nature without any reason to change whatsoever. Figure 5.2. Evolution is not about life climbing the “ladder of nature”

Download sample