Trilobite!: Eyewitness to Evolution

Richard Fortey, Author Alfred A. Knopf $26 (304p) ISBN 978-0-375-40625-6
Since the age of 14, Fortey, now a paleontologist and author (Life: A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years of Life on Earth), has been obsessed with trilobites, which survived for a total of three hundred million years, almost the whole duration of the Palaeozoic era. ""Who are we johnny-come-latelies,"" he asks, ""to label them as either `primitive' or `unsuccessful? I want to invest the trilobite with all the glamour of the dinosaur and twice its endurance."" That's a tall order, since the curiously shelled arthropod, whose closest living relative is the horseshoe crab, is quite disadvantaged in popular appeal when compared to that of your typical 80-ton brontosaurus and company. Although trilobites hold some fascinationDthey lived symbiotically, came in various morphologies and bore crystal eyes and segmented shells that let them roll up like armadillosDthey are very hard to warm up to (one look at the cover of this book will prove the point). More problematic, however, is that Fortey seems unsure how to structure the book. He rhapsodizes at length about the biology of trilobites, but as if to soften the presentation for the general reader, he frequently digresses to more narrative elements. He tells personal stories, relates anecdotes about important trilobite researchers and offers his opinion on numerous related topics, such as why the Cambrian explosion wasn't an explosion at all. Ultimately, these elements cohere more into a patchwork of facts and concerns rather than a crisp narrative of scientific wonder and discovery. Readers may be drawn by the popularity of Fortey's Life but they will be disappointed by this latest effort. 40 illus. (Nov. 6)
Reviewed on: 01/01/2001
Release date: 01/01/2001
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 978-970-777-217-5
Ebook - 184 pages - 978-0-307-43467-8
Paperback - 324 pages - 978-0-375-70621-9
Hardcover - 269 pages - 978-0-00-257012-1
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