Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body
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Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  9,506 ratings  ·  778 reviews
Details on a Major New Discovery included in a New AfterwordWhy do we look the way we do? Neil Shubin, the paleontologist and professor of anatomy who co-discovered Tiktaalik, the “fish with hands,” tells the story of our bodies as you've never heard it before. By examining fossils and DNA, he shows us that our hands actually resemble fish fins, our heads are organized lik...more
ebook, 163 pages
Published January 15th 2008 by Vintage (first published January 1st 2008)
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Will Byrnes
How are embryos like fossils? How did we come to have the hands, arms, heads, bone structures, ears, eyes and many of the other parts we have? It turns out that homo sap is a very jury-rigged critter, an accumulation of biological compromises and re-purposed parts. One can look at fossils to see how we got from there, waaaay back there, to here, and one can also find, in comparing embryos of different species, evidence of our developmental history. DNA tells tales. Neil Shubin follows both paths...more
This really was a pleasure – another book recommended by Wendy – although what I liked most about it was possibly not the most obvious things about the book. From very early on I was in a bit of a world of my own and had started to wonder what to make of the fact that palaeontologists tend to make such wonderful science writers?

I’ve said it before, but I think Gould is a better writer than Dawkins – and that is a big statement for me, as I tend to prefer an English voice over an American one. I...more
Katherine Furman
This book delivered exactly what I wanted: an explanation of evolution from fish (and before really) to man in layman's terms, but not moron layman--well-spoken layman. I had so many 'ah-ha!' moments while reading this book that my head began to spin a little, but in a good way. For instance, when I used to think about evolution the hardest part for me to wrap my mind around was the slow progress of body parts morphing from one form to the next. What this book enlightened me to was that it's not...more
There are lots of titles out there in American bookstores that see the need to defend the idea of evolution from the claims of creationism and intelligent design. But this book is not one of them. Shubin assumes that you accept evolution to be a fact about the world and gets on with it. He is a fish paleontologist who teaches anatomy to first year medical students at the University of Chicago. If that sounds strange, it won’t so much after you’ve read his book. Paleontology and comparative anato...more
If you have a semi-extensive science background, you'll probably find this book annoyingly vague. Lots of handwaving, little in the way of explanatory detail.

If you're a fan of well-written scientific prose, you'll definitely be driven around the bend. The author was chosen to write this book because he made a terrific discovery in northern Canada a few years back -- a key missing link between fish and mammals -- not because he can write his way out of a wet paper bag. Each chapter lunges hither...more
Update 12/2009: Shubin and I have just released 40 figures in this book as a deck of PowerPoint slides with the hopes that educators across the country will be able to use them in their lectures on evolution and biology. They're available for free on the Tiktaalik website: Hope they're useful!

Review from 12/2007: Keep an eye out for this book's release in January of 2008. I worked extensively with the author while he was writing it, and was constantly ent...more
I really enjoyed this exploration into our human body and how it reveals pieces of our evolutionary ancestors.

You certainly don't need a science degree or much of a biology background at all to follow the steps from gills to ears or larynx. I would have appreciated more detail and a little less hand waving, but that's my inner scientist showing through.

He had a very detailed bibliography, with not just titles he drew on and others to explore, but commentary on why they might be useful. I love a...more
Apr 20, 2012 Carlo rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone interested in Evolution
Recommended to Carlo by: Trevor
I knew about this book from Trevor's review some time ago. I saw it in the Bibliography of some of Dawkins' books and it that of Why Evolution is True by Jerry A. Coyne which I recently read, and I got interested to read it very soon. It is truly a remarkable work. If not for anything, just because it shows how evolution can be very helpful in making advances in Medicine. Neil Shubin, who is very well versed in Comparative Anatomy, shows how certain parts of our body can only be understood in li...more
There are plenty of people writing reviews about this book detailing examples of what is covered in the book, but if you are on the fence about reading it, here is what the book offers: a basic overview of phylogenetics (specifically cladistics, which tries to use novel features to determine how species are related to each other), the natural history of several important innovations in the evolution of the body plan we share with other land-based vertebrates (birds, fish, mammals), and insight i...more
I threw in the towel with this book about half way through. I found it to be dull, and missing a voice. It feels mostly as if the author is trying to convince his audience that evolution is real. It's written part to the layperson, part to the scientist or student, it's neither a textbook not a successful popular work to me. I love scientific books, and could point folks to a few which I believe were amongst the best that I read in the last year or two, but this book just misses the mark.

I woul...more
This is a very important book that not only updated my knowledge on the current state of comparative anatomy in relation to evolutionary biology but also kept me turning the pages in absolute fascination. I almost read it in one sitting because I couldn't bear to put it down. No one who reads this could possibly have any doubts about the relatedness of all of life or the fact that we carry the evolutionary history of more than just humans inside us. I found the writing style less than elegant, b...more
Lois Bujold
Nov 03, 2012 Lois Bujold rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
I read this a few years back, but was reminded of it by the inclusion of its author and materials on the PBS DVD "What Darwin Never Knew" (2009), which I caught belatedly tonight. Excellent science writing by the actual practitioner -- highly recommended. Shubin describes his search for the fossil fish that represents the first proto-quadrupeds on land; later, the discovery is backed up and deepened by a directed search for the genes and their mechanisms that made the differences.

Ta, L.
For those who enjoyed the writings of paleontologist and evolutionary biologist, Steven Jay Gould, here is another master in communicating complex science to the lay person. Neil Shubin has the smarts, the skills, the enthusiasm and the insights to enlighten us on the manner in which we humans are part of the world's amazing collection of life forms past and present.

Gould taught at Harvard and was associated with the American Museum of Natural History. In remarkable parallel construction, Shubin...more
Fatema Hassan , bahrain

لطالما كانت صعوبة العلوم تكمن في كونها تحديات لعقلنا في مساق التاريخ البشري ، يجتمع العقل البشري الذي يفوق سائر كائنات رقعة الكرة الأرضية ذكاءًا بآلاته وأدواته التي تتصاعد آليات تطورها مع الزمن ليقوم بإكتشافات محدودة بين الفينة والأخرى ليواجه تحديات علم أعزل فطري هو علم الأحياء ( البيولوجيا) والذي لا زالت الإحاطة بكل تجاويفه و حقائقه نوع من أنواع المستحيل ، يدرس الإنسان علم المتحجرات ( المستحاثات أو الأحافير ) ليتدرج فهمه نحو نوع التطور الذي أطلق جميع الكائنات الحية التي تجتمع فوق الكرة الأرضية...more
When I was a kid, I loved to read the non-fiction books of Issac Asimov.

I was fascinated by how things worked, be they natural of something man-made and Asimov wrote to inform the layman like me of the wonders of everything from physics to biology (and even the Bible).

Once I worked as a lowly night janitor in a Bell Telephone office. I couldn't wait for my lunch hour to run to the basement, pull up a chair and dig into what Asimov had to say on the structure of the atom and how electricity worke...more
I feel bad not giving this book a higher rating. Heaven knows we can use more books that explain complex scientific material to the general public. Gifted writers such as Jonathan Weiner ( The Beak of the Finch ), David Quammen (The Flight of the Iguana), and Gilbert Waldbauer (Insects through the Seasons) have expanded my own intellectual horizons considerably, simultaneously educating and entertaining. Alas, I can’t in good conscience place Neil Shubin’s book in the same league. It read more li...more
Tom Meyer
If Richard Dawkins attacks Creationism with rhetorical broadsides, Shubin does it with a carefully-aimed silenced rifle; less dramatic, but far more effective and humane.

Unless I missed something, I don't think Shubin uses the word "evolution" anywhere in the book. But he presumes Common Descent and -- without the reader having to be consciously aware of this -- causes the reader to presume it as well. He or she has to for the book to make any sense. Indeed, until the final chapter, I don't thin...more
Dr. Shubin's book leans more to the evolutionary connections between organisms. He covers an enormous list of experimental evidence in passing which links the way the genes have been reused over millions, and in a few cases billions, of years in constituting the various body & sensory parts. Change the regulation and combination of genes to get a whole new organism.
From Paracoccus dentrificans to humans via the Poriferans, Cnidarians, & the Chordates.

This is a great book to read with "En...more
Abe TheSemite
Neil who discovered Tiktaalik does not even draw any attention to the fish, 'bichir', and if it had any possible link with his "discovery" despite the fact that both share major characteristics.

In comparison to the snob, Richard Dawkins, here you have Neil Shubin who does take fossils as a major line of evidence in contrast to the former that regards fossils as just another "bonus" material that we do not need to understand ourselves with! (for more on Dawkins please refer to the following threa...more
Al-waleed Kerdie
كتاب جميل يبدأه كاتبه في رحلة إكتشافه لأول مستحاثة بدأت بالإنتقال من حياة الماء إلى البرماء و هي التيكتاليك, ينتقل بنا الكاتب لاحقا في دروس تشريحية عن بعض أجزاء الإنسان و صلتها بالأنواع الأخرى محاولا إيضاح العلاقة بين الإنسان و الأنواع الأخرى في تاريخ شجرة الحياة التطوري و محاولات العلماء الحثيثة في اكتشاف هذه التشريحات و التي نال الكثير منهم جوائز نوبل عن إسهاماتهم العلمية. إننا لا نرتبط فقط بالرئيسيات كما يهيئ للبعض بل نتعداها إلى جميع الأنواع من سمك القرش و قنديل البحر و الديدان و الإسفنج و ا...more
This book spoke to my biology background. I was fascinated by the anatomical structures that are similar in humans and other animals. Good information and illustrations without being overly academic.
Aug 21, 2014 Jennifer rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jennifer by: Book Shark
Shelves: science, evolution
One of the co-discoverers of the "missing link*," fish-fibian, fossil Tiktaalik takes you through a narrative, chronological journey of human anatomy. I never had an anatomy class, so this was very interesting. I think of all the evolution books I've read so far this one has the most thorough coverage of embryology, and the specifics of common genes and gene functions amongst the various branches of life (remember that DNA is not simply a piece of the body, or even just a set of instructions - D...more
Jason Mills
Jul 09, 2011 Jason Mills rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Biology buffs
Shelves: science
Shubin's team spent several summers in the frozen north looking for fossils of creatures that were evolving to live on land. Ultimately they discovered an exciting fossil called Tiktaalik, whose skull is flat like a reptile's and whose limbs begin to resemble those of many lineages, including mammals and thus humans. After describing this expedition and the predictive methodology that told them where to look, Shubin uses Tiktaalik as the launch-pad for comparing elements of our own anatomy with...more
Archaeology, anatomy, evolution...these are not things where I am well versed to give a thoughtful review, but since I've insulted this work with two stars, I should explain: I was awaiting the chapter that would make me reconsider myself as a fish and send me running to a swimming pool for relief - and did not find it.

Basically, this seems more like an overview of evolution and the title's idea seems like a last thought of many chapters. The diagrams are, at times, more relevatory than the pros...more
In this book Neil Shubin describes his recent discovery of a transitional fossil between fish and four-legged land creatures on Ellesmere Island, in the Canadian arctic. After consulting with Inuit tribes, he named the find "Tiktaalik" -- "fish with wrist".

Shubin then goes on to describe how many features of our bodies are rooted in "primitive" prehistoric creatures. Human teeth, for instance, which have varied functions yet perfectly occlude, originated in some tiny rodents. Our ears are descen...more
Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin

Your Inner Fish is one of the most interesting books ever written about evolution. It tells us two fantastic stories: the story of our bodies and the story of one of the greatest scientific discoveries ever made. It's a fantastic enlightening book that tells us why we look the way we do. This 240-page book is composed of the following eleven chapters: 1. Finding Your Inner Fish, 2. Getting a Grip, 3. Handy Genes, 4. Teeth Everywhere, 5. Getting Ahead, 6. The Best-L...more
Apr 29, 2009 Woodge rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Creationists; old fossils
Shelves: non-fiction, science
Neil Shubin is a paleontologist who delves briefly into the history of the human body by way of fossils and DNA evidence. Sure, I learned stuff... like how interconnected all the species really are; and that mammals have three bones in the inner ear while other species have fewer; and that there's a gene called Sonic hedgehog; and how to extract DNA using common household appliances and items you could easily buy in a store (a blender is involved and I'm easily reminded of the Bass-O-Matic). But...more
Alex Telander
YOUR INNER FISH BY NEIL SHUBIN: Neil Shubin is a professor and associate dean at the University of Chicago. Also a paleontologist, Shubin made headlines around the world in April 2006 when he discovered the “missing link” in the world of fish with Tiktaalik, a fish with many features like that of tetrapods or four-legged animals. When asked to teach a human anatomy course, Shubin discovered that a lot of the structures and evolutionary processes of the human body could be better explained throug...more
John Wiswell
The most excited a book has gotten me about evolution since Kenneth Miller a decade ago. True, I’ve held onto this copy of Your Inner Fish for a while, but it was worth every day of wait. Shubin is equally honest about his ineptitude at hunting fossils and at the awe of biological diversity on earth. By examining key structures in organisms, including fins, teeth and wombs, he renders a vivid understanding of how life could descend from fish, to dogs, and to us. By the end you’ll appreciate that...more
As someone who knows little of paleotology, embryology, biology, etc., I have always felt a lack of a basic knowledge of evolution, other than the few pieces I picked up here and there, so when I saw something on this book I said, "okay local library, let's see what you've got."
This book offers a blissfully simple explanation for evolution from 3.5. Billion years to the present. Really. It has great illustration that, for example, explain how the inner ear, detached, floating pieces of bone and...more
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  • Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters
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  • Why Evolution Is True
  • At the Water's Edge: Fish with Fingers, Whales with Legs, and How Life Came Ashore but Then Went Back to Sea
  • What Evolution Is
  • Trilobite: Eyewitness to Evolution
  • Climbing Mount Improbable
  • Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History
  • The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions
  • Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design
  • Lone Survivors: How We Came to Be the Only Humans on Earth
  • When Life Nearly Died: The Greatest Mass Extinction of All Time
The Universe Within: Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets, and People

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“We were not designed rationally, but are products of a convoluted history.” 11 likes
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