04 October 2009

The Link

I was a biology major. I took evolution, developmental biology, the works. I even wanted to be a paleontologist...until about age eleven when I found out you had to go dig up the fossil rather than have someone do it for you (and I don't like dirt or being outside, so that really scotched paleontology as my future career). When The Link released last May I was really excited; a new, very complete fossil that could be a "missing link"? I'll read a book about Ida.

Notice this is October. Notice The Link is not a long book. Yeah. Right around page 100 this book takes a detour into some seriously boooring info-dumps about taxonomy and human/primate evolution. It was not interesting to me as someone with degrees in natural science because, well, I'd seen it all before in one format or another; it probably is not interesting to the lay-reader, either, because the authors didn't take time to explain the family/genus/class/species, etc. layout from the basis on up and it probably left some readers behind.

Did I mention yet that this book is boring when they're not talking about Ida? I think Ida is fascinating. The documentary shown on the History Channel was very interesting. This book does not do Ida or her research team justice. When comparing Ida's bone structure to that of a lemur and noting how there are similarities and differences, I would have liked a side-by-side layout of the two skeletons with the differences notated. I would have liked a detailed discussion of how the 3D reconstructions of Ida's skeleton were made since the fossil was almost completely flattened into a single plane over time. I would have liked illustrations or pictures of the fossils described in the very boring section about evolution because my memory isn't terribly good and sometimes you need to compare pictures of Old World monkeys, New World monkeys, chimpanzees, and orangutans to keep the taxonomy straight. I did not need pictures of fossilized fish or bats (ok, maybe one to illustrate that Ida isn't the only complete fossil found in the Meissen pit, but we don't need that many when better illustrations and pictures are needed elsewhere in the book).

Just to sum up: Ida is fascinating and holds a unique place in paleontology but the book is just middling and really could have been done better. Buy the documentary because the book really isn't worth all the hype.

Clear Off Your Shelves Challenge Count: 1/1

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