Skin: A Natural History

Nina G. Jablonski, Author . Univ. of California $24.95 (281p) ISBN 978-0-520-24281-4

This amply illustrated rhapsody to the body's largest and most visible organ showcases skin's versatility, importance in human biology and uniqueness: human skin is hairless and sweaty, has evolved in a spectrum of colors and is a billboard for self-expression. Penn State's anthropology chair, Jablonski nimbly interprets scientific data for a lay audience, and her geeky love for her discipline is often infectious. At her most compelling, Jablonski demonstrates that our hairlessness didn't evolve after humans adopted clothing or because our distant hominid relatives splashed through an aquatic phase like dolphins and whales; rather, it's inextricably linked to our abundance of sweat glands. Similarly intriguing are the notions that indigenous people of the hot tropics are tall and lean because mammals with a high ratio of skin surface area to body weight keep cool in intense heat, and that women have lighter skin color than men because females need to maximize vitamin D production during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Much less successful is a chapter entitled "Wear and Tear," which briefly discusses but sheds little light on such skin conditions as birthmarks, scabs, burns and acne, and serves up the same visual guide to checking moles for melanoma that is found in countless doctors' offices. Color and b&w illus. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 08/07/2006
Release date: 10/01/2006
Ebook - 281 pages - 978-0-520-94170-0
Paperback - 266 pages - 978-0-520-25624-8
Paperback - 266 pages - 978-0-520-27589-8
Open Ebook - 288 pages - 978-0-520-95481-6
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