cover image The Bare Bones: An Unconventional Evolutionary History of the Skeleton

The Bare Bones: An Unconventional Evolutionary History of the Skeleton

Matthew F. Bonnan. Indiana Univ, $75 (512p) ISBN 978-0-253-01832-8

Bonnan, professor of biology at Stockton University, combines wit and passion with the sensibilities of a talented instructor in this encyclopedic tour of the vertebrate skeleton. The voluminous details that Bonnan presents can be overwhelming, but his style makes them accessible even for those without a background in anatomy. He opens each chapter with an engrossing overview and brings the 540 million year evolution of vertebrates to life, using the extended metaphor of the development of automobile types. Bonnan describes the transitions between all major groups of vertebrates, in every case offering clear examples of the types of evidence that has accumulated over the years. Along the way he provides informative summaries of evolutionary processes, developmental biology, and physiology. Bonnan frames his arguments by offering falsifiable hypotheses and then comparing them with the data. For example, he begins his chapter on the tetrapod body plan by noting, “In the previous chapter, we have predicted what we should find in the earliest tetrapods. It is now time to put these predictions to the test.” Over 200 illustrations clarify and advance his story. Bonnan conceived of his work as a comparative anatomy text for undergraduates, but it is suitable for a much wider audience. Illus. (Feb.)