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Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin
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Your Inner Fish: 11/11/09

I first heard about Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin on NPR in early 2008. It sounded like an interesting book and had such a catchy title that it was easy to remember. Recently I saw the book at my local library and snatched it up. The book proved to be as fascinating a read as the author's interview on NPR was to listen to.

Your Inner Fish is a hybrid of a memoir and an introductory evolutionary biology book. For the memoir half, Shubin covers how he got started in his field and how he and his colleagues came across the best places to search for the bones of those elusive common ancestors

At the heart of his research is a creature that looks like a cross between a fish and a crocodile. It's a fish with a long flat snout and shoulders. It is otherwise fish like. The creature dubbed Tiktaalik was found in a remote bit of the Canadian arctic

From the bones in the shoulder and fins Shubin goes on to explain how biologists have found similarities between a wide variety of animals. Look at a human hand and compare it to that of a cats paw, a bat's wing, a horse's hoof and so forth. They are different but similar. It's easy to see how the bones of different animals share common properties with each other.

Back in college I took a paleontology course. My favorite lecture for the class was a skeletal comparison between T-rex and common Thanksgiving turkey. As Your Inner Fish was along the same lines, I couldn't put it down until I was done. I managed to tear through it in about two hours.

Comments (2)

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Comment #1: Wednesday, November, 11, 2009 at 15:34:36


This is a book I would very much like to read. I believe it was nominated for a Royal Society Prize, but I'm pretty sure it didn't win. I heard Shubin interviewed on radio, too, on the CBC's Quirks and Quarks. I'm even more excited to read it now, though!

Comment #2: Monday, November 16, 2009 at 10:08:14


It makes sense he'd be on the CBC since most of his field research takes him to the northern reaches of Canada. Your Inner Fish is a fascinating and well written book. The second edition apparently has an update on his research; I read the first edition.

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