The Walking Whales: From Land to Water in Eight Million Years

J.G.M. “Hans” Thewissen. Univ. of California, $34.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-520-27706-9
Imagine the Batmobile slowly morphing into the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine. That, says whale paleontologist Thewissen, is essentially what happened over the course of eight million years to whales. They “started out with a very elaborately perfected body adapted to life on land and changed… to a body perfectly tuned to the ocean.” In this fascinating but dense volume, Thewissen chronicles the fieldwork he has done in recent decades and the discoveries researchers have made by piecing together fossils. He gives a first-person account of his experiences in the 1990s and 2000s in Pakistan and India, and describes conditions during his digs in remote outposts: “Life is simple. There is no heat, water, or gas, and it is very cold.” There is an immediacy to Thewissen’s writing and an urgency to the excavations, and readers curious about paleontological fieldwork will appreciate the enthusiasm and specificity with which he approaches his subject matter. Those less keen on minutia—on dental ensemble or skeletal reconstruction, for example—might find the book overly academic, but the whale’s evolution and Thewissen’s contributions to its study are both extraordinary. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/06/2014
Release date: 11/01/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 248 pages - 978-0-520-95941-5
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-520-30560-1
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