Category Archives: Books


November 2007

This is the conclusion to a review in Nature by Chris Thomas (York) of a new book by paleontologist Michael Novacek, Terra, about the possibility of a new, human-driven, mass extinction event:

“The geological perspective of  Terra is bizarrely reassuring. Humans will presumably be gone within a few million years, perhaps sooner. If the past that Novacek describes is a guide to the future, global ecosystem processes will be restored some tens of thousands to a million years after our demise, and new forms of life over the ensuing millions of years will exploit the denuded planet we leave behind. Thirty million years on, things will be back to normal, albeit a very different ‘normal’ from before. It is good to be optimistic. The problem is living here in the meantime.”

Buy Terra at Amazon (other booksellers are available).


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Filed under Books, Extinction


May 2007

Some of you may remember the Gay Penguin business in Berlin Zoo a while back. This is a piece about a pair of male flamingos who have adopted an egg. Ahhh. Anybody seriously interested in the wide variety of sexual behaviour in the animal kingdom should read Bruce Bagemihl’s book “Animal Exuberance”, which is in the library. However, I recommend only the first half, which is a review. The second part, which is a “theoretical” interpretation, seemed a bit barmy to me.

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Filed under Baby animals, Birds, Books


April 2007

The paperback edition of my book about the 17th century discovery of “the secrets of sex, life and growth” is out (£7.99). It’s called The Egg and Sperm Race and you can get it at Blackwell’s or from Amazon. It’s also in the library…

I have a review in the current issue of the Times Literary Supplement of three books about the evolution of morality, in particular about how (and if) apes show moral behaviour.

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Filed under Behaviour, Books, Evolution, Primates


February 2007

Last year ago, the Z-letter carried an item about the nasty virus which is threatening the Tasmanian Devil. A conference has taken place in Tasmania to pool ideas about how to fight the disease.

BBC report here, Nature article on the virus from 2006 here, Nature news piece from 2006 here (Uni/Athens needed for both these), a good book about the Devil here (only £8.60, but available in the Rylands Library).

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Filed under Books, Diseases, Marsupials


February 2007

This superb collection of articles on the origins and function of bird coloration is in two volumes and is now available for Manchester students in the John Rylands Library. To get an idea of what’s in the books, click here and select “Look inside”. Chapter 1 is by our external examiner, Professor Innes Cuthill (Bristol). Go to the Rylands website to find out where the books are shelved.

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Filed under Birds, Books


January 2007

Stunning pictures illustrating the appearance and evolution of life on Earth, and the conditions involved, here.

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Filed under Books, Evolution, Extinction, Images


October 2006

In March this year there was a debate at the LSE in London about Richard Dawkins’ book The Selfish Gene (if you haven’t read it, you must!). Speakers included philosopher Daniel C Dennet, scientist Sir John Krebs, authors Matt Ridley and Ian McEwan, and Dawkins himself. The meeting was chaired by Melvyn Bragg. You can listen to the whole 90 minutes here (or download and listen at your leisure on your MP3 player…)

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Filed under Audio files, Behaviour, Books, Evolution