PBS presented part 1 of 3 last night of Your Inner Fish, a new TV series hosted by and based on Neil Shubin’s book of the same name. I recommend this highly. It’s wonderfully done and, it goes without saying, this subject is close to my heart. Shubin is an excellent host and his presentation is clear, true and entertaining.
The book, Your Inner Fish, came out in 2008. Here’s the Amazon.com synopsis.
“Why 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 like long-extinct jawless fish, and major parts of our genomes look and function like those of worms and bacteria. Your Inner Fish makes us look at ourselves and our world in an illuminating new light. This is science writing at its finest—enlightening, accessible and told with irresistible enthusiasm.”
How the book came to be as told by author Neil Shubin
“This book grew out of an extraordinary circumstance in my life. On account of faculty departures, I ended up directing the human anatomy course at the University of Chicago medical school. Anatomy is the course during which nervous first-year medical students dissect human cadavers while learning the names and organization of most of the organs, holes, nerves, and vessels in the body. This is their grand entrance to the world of medicine, a formative experience on their path to becoming physicians. At first glance, you couldn’t have imagined a worse candidate for the job of training the next generation of doctors: I’m a fish paleontologist.
It turns out that being a paleontologist is a huge advantage in teaching human anatomy. Why? The best roadmaps to human bodies lie in the bodies of other animals. The simplest way to teach students the nerves in the human head is to show them the state of affairs in sharks. The easiest roadmap to their limbs lies in fish. Reptiles are a real help with the structure of the brain. The reason is that the bodies of these creatures are simpler versions of ours.
During the summer of my second year leading the course, working in the Arctic, my colleagues and I discovered fossil fish that gave us powerful new insights into the invasion of land by fish over 375 million years ago. That discovery and my foray into teaching human anatomy led me to a profound connection. That connection became this book.”
If you are interested in human evolution and want to see more details on the development of human body parts and — when — they came to be, see “From the Beginning, the Story of Human Evolution” free online pdf here.
Only a few updates to this 1991 book are needed based on more recent discoveries. Updates can be found at reptileevolution.com where you can also read about the evolution of any reptile, from snakes to pterosaurs to whales, dinosaurs and bats, from their fishy genesis through all their transitional taxa.
to Neil Shubin for work well done!