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The Monkey's Voyage: How Improbable Journeys Shaped the History of Lifeby Alan de Queiroz
Could a frog hitch a ride on some debris and float to another continent? Could a monkey cross the Atlantic unassisted? Biologist Alan de Queiroz presents a provocative investigation of the ways in which species may have dispersed throughout the world via seemingly impossible journeys, traveling not just by land but across vast bodies of water.
Synopses & Reviews
Throughout the world, closely related species are found on landmasses separated by wide stretches of ocean. What explains these far-flung distributions? Why are such species found where they are across the Earth?
Since the discovery of plate tectonics, scientists have conjectured that plants and animals were scattered over the globe by riding pieces of ancient supercontinents as they broke up. In the past decade, however, that theory has foundered, as the genomic revolution has made reams of new data available. And the data has revealed an extraordinary, stranger-than-fiction story that has sparked a scientific upheaval.
In The Monkeys Voyage, biologist Alan de Queiroz describes the radical new view of how fragmented distributions came into being: frogs and mammals rode on rafts and icebergs, tiny spiders drifted on storm winds, and plant seeds were carried in the plumage of sea-going birds to create the map of life we see today. In other words, these organisms were not simply constrained by continental fate; they were the makers of their own geographic destiny. And as de Queiroz shows, the effects of oceanic dispersal have been crucial in generating the diversity of life on Earth, from monkeys and guinea pigs in South America to beech trees and kiwi birds in New Zealand. By toppling the idea that the slow process of continental drift is the main force behind the odd distributions of organisms, this theory highlights the dynamic and unpredictable nature of the history of life.
In the tradition of John McPhee's Basin and Range, The Monkey's Voyage is a beautifully told narrative that strikingly reveals the importance of contingency in history and the nature of scientific discovery.
Entertaining and enlightening .Beyond the actual science, de Queiroz brings insight into the nature of scientific discourse itself.” Publishers Weekly
A story full of intriguing discoveries that de Queiroz, a fluent and spellbinding popular-science writer, agglomerates into the narrative spine of a book brimming with fascination.” Booklist, starred review
Authoritative and eloquent, The Monkey's Voyage provides a revolutionary new look at the history of life on Earth. Drawing from his own and others research, de Queiroz tells an exuberant tale of organisms thumbing their collective noses over the eons at the perceived scientific wisdom by doing what had been deemed patently impossible, from monkeys crossing roiling oceans to root-bound plants journeying thousands of miles over sea and land to end up on the tippity tops of unclimbable summits. As de Queiroz reveals, these unexpected travelers have time and again changed the face of the landscapes into which they fall, one unbelievable journey after another, forever altering the grand course of the evolution of life.” Carol Kaesuk Yoon, author of Naming Nature: The Clash Between Instinct and Science
Alan de Queiroz begins The Monkey's Voyage hoping his children will understand the nuances of biogeography. Then he writes precisely the kind of book that will explain it to them, and to the rest of us. Clear and compelling throughout, de Queiroz explores the science behind an age-old question, why do plants and animals occur where they do? He makes a strong case that oceans can be highways as well as barriers. A great read.” Thor Hanson, author of Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle
How did related species wind up on lands separated by vast oceans? Scientists have long conjectured that plants and animals were scattered over the globe as passengers on drifting continents, but in The Monkey's Voyage, biologist Alan de Queiroz shows that the latest evidence points to a more mysterious explanation. He describes how species as diverse as monkeys, frogs, and baobab trees made incredible long-distance ocean journeys: animals swam or rode natural rafts, seeds were carried on storm winds or in the plumage of seabirds, creating the map of life as we know it. Like Basin and Range and The Song of the Dodo, The Monkey's Voyage combines lyrical prose with a profound exploration of deep history and the nature of scientific discovery.
About the Author
Alan de Queiroz is an evolutionary biologist and adjunct faculty at the University of Nevada, Reno. He has written widely-cited research articles on topics ranging from biogeography to the evolution of behavior to the origins of parasites. He lives in Reno, Nevada.
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