The Ancestor's Tale

The Ancestor's Tale

A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution

Book - 2004
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The renowned biologist and thinker Richard Dawkins presents his most expansive work yet: a comprehensive look at evolution, ranging from the latest developments in the field to his own provocative views. Loosely based on the form of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Dawkins's Tale takes us modern humans back through four billion years of life on our planet. As the pilgrimage progresses, we join with other organisms at the forty "rendezvous points" where we find a common ancestor. The band of pilgrims swells into a vast crowd as we join first with other primates, then with other mammals, and so on back to the first primordial organism.
Dawkins's brilliant, inventive approach allows us to view the connections between ourselves and all other life in a bracingly novel way. It also lets him shed bright new light on the most compelling aspects of evolutionary history and theory: sexual selection, speciation, convergent evolution, extinction, genetics, plate tectonics, geographical dispersal, and more. The Ancestor's Tale is at once a far-reaching survey of the latest, best thinking on biology and a fascinating history of life on Earth. Here Dawkins shows us how remarkable we are, how astonishing our history, and how intimate our relationship with the rest of the living world.
Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2004
ISBN: 9780618005833
Branch Call Number: 576.8 Daw
Characteristics: xii, 673 p. : ill
Additional Contributors: Wong, Yan


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Aug 20, 2018

A long book, full of detail. It’s fascinating to read, although the press of other projects left me only an hour each day to devote to it. Don’t be put off by the length. A person can glean the major points of the book through approximately 200 pages of text. Read “The Conceit of Hindsight, The General Prologue,” and “Rendezvous 0” to get an understanding of Dawkins’ goal and method. Then read all of “Rendezvous 26”. While it covers only one stop on the journey, it almost serves as a recapitulation of the entire book, in that Dawkins references most of the techniques and analyses used elsewhere in the book. His comments on religion are minimal compared with any of his works I have read, making this text non-confrontational for most readers.

Feb 27, 2018

Imagine traveling back in time to observe the last shared ancestor of humans, bonobos and chimpanzees. What might that individual have looked like? What was its lifestyle? And what if we ventured further back, to when those three species shared an ancestor with gorillas? How long would it take before we met up with the ancestors of all mammals, birds, lizards, sharks or insects? This book is a reverse journey of human ancestry, each stop a convergence with an extant group in the tree of life.

There's nothing I love more than a thick, detailed book of natural history, and I enthusiastically enjoyed it, though I have to admit that sometime during the final quarter my eyes started to glaze over when the subject matter turned heavily to cell biology and genetics -- no fault of the author, it's not my wheelhouse. Recommended heartily to natural history buffs.

Jul 08, 2016

A really interesting read, but so much information. A huge book with pages chock full of small print. Really helped me understand how living things are related and the new phylogeny charts.

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