Why do we look the way we do? What does the human hand have in common with the wing of a fly? Are breasts, sweat glands, and scales connected in some way? To better understand the inner workings of our bodies and to trace the origins of many of today's most common diseases, we have to turn to unexpected sources: worms, flies, and even fish.
Neil Shubin, a leading paleontologist and professor of anatomy who discovered Tiktaalik—the “missing link” that made headlines around the world in April 2006—tells the story of evolution by tracing the organs of the human body back millions of years, long before the first creatures walked the earth. By examining fossils and DNA, Shubin shows us that our hands actually resemble fish fins, our head is organized like that of a long-extinct jawless fish, and major parts of our genome look and function like those of worms and bacteria.
Shubin makes us see ourselves and our world in a completely new light. Your Inner Fish is science writing at its finest—enlightening, accessible, and told with irresistible enthusiasm.
“[Shubin] has clearly fallen in love with this ancient fish, and conveys its significance with both precision and exuberance. . . . Read Your Inner Fish, and you’ll never again be able to look a fish in the eye (or eat seafood) without thinking about shared evolution. . . . Shubin is dead right: The elegance and full emotional power of our connection with the natural world compel us to reach further back in time and deeper into the Earth’s fossil layers. Visit Lucy, think Tiktaalik, and feel the connection.”—The Washington Post Book World
“[Shubin] leads a lively jaunt through thehuman body to get us in touch with our fish (not to mention buggy, wormy, and yeasty) extended family. . . . Join him and learn to love your body for what it really is: a jury-rigged fish.”—Discover
“[A] surprisingly titillating evolutionary anatomy lesson. . . . [Your Inner Fish] probes deep into the heart of what we are, pushing well past our inner fish to reveal something even more mysterious and profound: our Darwin-loving inner geek.”—New York Observer
“[Shubin’s] hand, transformed from what was once a fishy fin, provides a powerful example of what evolution is capable of. . . . A deft synthesis of palaeontology, embryology and developmental biology.” —New Scientist
“Magisterial. . . . If you want to understand the evolutionary history of man and other animals, and read no other account this year, read this splendid monograph. . . . It’s not a new notion, but rarely has it been expressed so clearly and with such good humor.” —Financial Times (London)
“[Shubin] delves into human gristle, interpreting the scars of billions of years of evolution that we carry inside our bodies. . . . Your Inner Fish combines Shubin’s and others’ discoveries to present a twenty-first-century anatomy lesson. The simple, passionate writing may turn more than a few high-school students into aspiring biologists.” —Nature
“A remarkably enthusiastic and easy-to-read explanation of evolution described through the synthesis of paleontology, developmental genetics and genomics. . . . Shubin presents his arguments creatively and concisely, tackling sometimes profound questions about origins and evolution directly, even humorously.” —San Diego Union-Tribune
“A delightful introduction to our skeletal structure, viscera and other vital parts–and evidence that learning the secrets of the human body need not unhinge you. . . . [Shubin] is a warm and disarming guide. . . . When he tells the thrilling story of coming upon the fossil remains of Tiktaalik in the Arctic wilderness, where anything that might be mistaken for a polar bear (including at one point, embarrassingly, a bunny) sends him scurrying, we share his sense of triumph. . . . Future researchers, aware that the ingredients of our evolutionary precursors are part of the human recipe, may well find new ways to prevent the wear and tear on our fish-begotten bodies. And who knows? Maybe one or two of them will have had their first taste of the marvels of human evolution in Neil Shubin’s anatomy class.” —Los Angeles Times
“With infectious enthusiasm, unfailing clarity, and laugh-out-loud humor, Neil Shubin has created a book on paleontology, genetics, genomics, and anatomy that is almost impossible to put down. In telling the story of why we are who we are, Shubin does more than show us our inner fish; he awakens and excites the inner scientist in us all.”—Pauline Chen, author of Final Exam
“The antievolution crowd is always asking where the missing links in the descent of man are. Well, paleontologist Shubin actually discovered one. . . . A crackerjack comparative anatomist, he uses his find to launch a voyage of discovery about the evolutionary evidence we can readily see at hand. . . . Shubin relays all this exciting evidence and reasoning so clearly that no general-interest library should be without this book.” —Booklist (starred review)
“A skillful writer, paleontologist Shubin conveys infectious enthusiasm. . . . Even readers with only a layperson’s knowledge of evolution will learn marvelous things about the unity of all organisms since the beginning of life.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Fish paleontologist Shubin illuminates the subject of evolution with humor and clarity in this compelling look at how the human body evolved into its present state. . . . Shubin moves smoothly through the anatomical spectrum. . . . [He] excels at explaining the science, making each discovery an adventure.” —Publishers Weekly
“I was hooked from the first chapter of Your Inner Fish. Creationists will want this book banned because it presents irrefutable evidence for a transitional creature that set the stage for the journey from sea to land. This engaging book combines the excitement of discovery with the rigors of great scholarship to provide a convincing case of evolution from fish to man.” —Don Johanson, director, Institute of Human Origins, Arizona State University
“In this extraordinary book, Neil Shubin takes us on an epic expedition to arctic wastelands, where his team discovered amazing new fossil evidence of creatures that bridge the gap between fish and land-living animals. He then adroitly moves us to the laboratory, where anatomy, paleontology, development, and genetics combine to give a new and startling picture of the evolutionary changes that produced us and our myriad biological relatives. With clarity and wit, Shubin shows us how exciting it is to be in the new age of discovery in evolutionary biology.” —Mike Novacek, author of Terra: Our 100 Million Year Ecosystem and the Threats That Now Put It at Risk
“An entertaining and original book. Cleverly weaving together adventures in paleontology with very accessible science, Neil Shubin reveals the many surprising deep connections between our anatomy and those of fish, reptiles, and other creatures. You will never look at your body in the same way again–examine, embrace, and exalt Your Inner Fish!” —Sean Carroll, author of The Making of the Fittest and Endless Forms Most Beautiful
WINNER 2008 - Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science
University of Pennsylvania Reading Project
NEIL SHUBIN is provost of The Field Museum as well as a professor of anatomy at the University of Chicago, where he also serves as an associate dean. Educated at Columbia, Harvard, and the University of California at Berkeley, he lives in Chicago.