HomeGroupsTalkZeitgeist
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The Monkey's Voyage: How Improbable…
Loading...

The Monkey's Voyage: How Improbable Journeys Shaped the History of… (2014)

by Alan de Queiroz

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
674175,945 (4.05)5
None
Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 5 mentions

Showing 4 of 4
Biogeography is the science of where various life-forms are found and, more importantly for this book, why. Given that an animal species, say, evolves in some particular place, how come that the same, or closely related, species may often be found in regions of similar climate but separated by seas, mountains, and other barriers that the animal does not ordinarily cross?

Apart from deliberate or accidental transport by humans - very important during the last few millennia but essentially irrelevant for the bulk of biological history - there are basically two types of explanations: long-distance dispersal and vicariance. The former is the chance successful dispersal across an "impassable" barrier, such as a storm blowing a bird across a sea too wide for it to fly across ordinarily. The latter means that an originally continuous range was broken into disjunct parts by some sort of environmental change: a sea opened, a land bridge sank, a warmer climate drove an originally lowland species up into mountain refugia.

Few would deny that both kinds of thing happen, but there has been strong disagreements about their relative importance. Darwin was much exercised by the possibility of plant seeds being carried across oceans by birds and similar kinds of long-distance dispersal. Around 1900 many biogeographers, convinced that such dispersal is very rare, felt justified in assuming former landbridges crisscrossing the oceans solely on the grounds of animal distributions. Around the middle of the 20th century an "extremist" school of vicariance biogeography, sometimes called panbiogeography, arose that, inspired by the then-new revelations of plate tectonics, held that the splitting and joining of continents was the overwhelmingly most important factor in determining distributions. This school was highly influential for a while but is now in retreat in the face of mounting genetic evidence for recent (geologically speaking) dispersals.

The book combines this intellectual history with an layman-friendly introduction to biogeography in general. It's a good read, but one might be slightly wary about the fact that de Queiroz is very much part of the dispersal-is-more-important-than-vicariance camp, and so no neutral chronicler. The title refers to the fact that New World monkeys by all appearances must have made it across the South Atlantic from their African point of origin, presumably on a natural raft.
  AndreasJ | Aug 9, 2017 |
How is it that similar species can be found as far away as Africa and South America? This question has been raging at least since Charles Darwin. Until then, the generally accepted answer was God. Darwin, on the other hand, believed that it was caused by dispersal – seeds and insects carried on birds’ feet or on floating debris or even icebergs in the ocean – and experimented with radish seeds and sticks to prove his theory. That theory was fine for small insects and plants over short distances but what about longer distances and bigger animals like, say, monkeys. It would take a miracle for a monkey to survive the trip from Africa to South America and scientists rarely believe in miracles.

Then in the 1960s, the theory of tectonic plates and continental drift was proven, leading to a more scientific solution – vicariance which is when a georgraphical area breaks into separate parts creating a barrier between members of species so that the disparate members then evolve differently (*phew* I hope I got that right). When Gondwana, the supercontinent in the southern hemisphere, broke apart, monkeys and other species of plants and animals were left to follow different evolutionary paths on opposite sides of the world. This made more sense than Darwin and his ‘damned, benighted dispersalism’ and so dispersalism was tossed on the trash heap of scientific history never to be considered by rational scientists again.

Well, no, not never because, within a couple of decades, new scientific discoveries were making the theory of vicariance less tenable. According to the vicariance argument, Africa and South America split 100 million years ago but molecular-clock studies show that African and South American monkeys didn’t split until just 30 – 50 million years ago. Plus, monkeys didn’t appear in South America until 26 million years ago according to author Alan de Querioz, “as if out of thin air”.

So what is the explanation? Well, as it turns out, de Querioz makes a pretty compelling argument that perhaps scientific miracles, or at least near-miracles, do happen. According to him, the answer is “land rafts’, which periodically break off from continents and drift over very long distances. When the first monkeys arrived in the new World some 40 million years ago, the Atlantic was only 900 miles wide. With strong winds and currents, the trip could have taken as little as a week.

The Monkey’s Voyage is a fascinating attempt to explain not only the evolution of species but the evolution of scientific thought. Along with the science, de Querioz peppers the book with some often funny anecdotes about the men behind the science. His writing style is open, intelligent, honest (he admits when the evidence doesn’t match the theory) and, at times humourous, making the science easily accessible and, dare I say, fun.

Disclaimer: I am not a scientist so don’t go by anything I have written. Read the book, instead, because, in simple layman’s terms (ie. Mine) it’s one heck of an interesting read. ( )
2 vote lostinalibrary | Apr 6, 2014 |
Every old theory is new again

The Monkey’s Voyage: How Improbable Journeys Shaped the History of Life by Alan de Queiroz (Basic Books, $27.99).

Biogeography is the study of the distribution of animals and plants and the explanation of how they got where they are. Sometimes they spread, following food, and then species that have been separated for long enough begin to differentiate.

It’s pretty basic biology. But the problem is that there are some spots on Earth where the same species exist, but are separated by oceans. If you’re studying a garter snake on the Baja Peninisula, like Alan de Queiroz was, and it seems very like the same species on the Mexican mainland, why, you’d think that they must have been separated when the tectonic plates started to pull Baja away from Mexico and the gulf formed.

Except that they were genetically identical. And they shouldn’t have been, given how long ago in geologic time Baja split off from Mexico.

So de Queiroz started looking at the theories scientist use to explain the distribution of species, and his work eventually led him to this book. He’s making a very strong case that—much as Darwin posited originally—many species have dispersed by floating on stuff across oceans or by being cast adrift on the air.

In short, we don’t need a bunch of magical land bridges to explain the New World monkeys.

De Queiroz explains it much more clearly than I have—and with delightful stories, like the tortoise that crossed the Indian Ocean in a floating voyage that left him with barnacles on his shell—and in a very readable form.

I can’t help but think that this is one of those “paradigm-shifting” moments in which an idea that had been accepted, then discarded, is once more moved to the mainstream—and all because science looks at the evidence in light of all new evidence, including “improbably journeys” made by organisms and observed by humans.

De Queiroz’ style is readable for the non-specialist, although he does introduce a lot of terminology. I found myself marking the glossary he provided and refreshing my memory whenever he returned to a topic.

Part history, part biology text, and part animal story, The Monkey’s Voyage is satisfying on every level.

(Published on Lit/Rant on 2/3/2014: http://litrant.tumblr.com/post/75473998179/every-old-theory-is-new-again-the-mon...) ( )
1 vote KelMunger | Mar 10, 2014 |
Just a note on the book description:
The word "data" is plural, so "the data have..." or "the data are..." (Sorry, couldn't help myself.)

Looking forward to reading this, sounds very interesting.
  bluepigeon | Dec 15, 2013 |
Showing 4 of 4
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Information from the Russian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Epigraph
Dedication
For Tara, Hana, and Eiji
First words
I recently put up a large map of the world in our house, ostensibly for our daughter and son, ages five and two, although to this point I'm the only one who's looked at it much.
Quotations
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0465020518, Hardcover)

Throughout the world, closely related species are found on landmasses separated by wide stretches of ocean. What explains these far-flung distributions? Why are such species found where they are across the Earth?

Since the discovery of plate tectonics, scientists have conjectured that plants and animals were scattered over the globe by riding pieces of ancient supercontinents as they broke up. In the past decade, however, that theory has foundered, as the genomic revolution has made reams of new data available. And the data has revealed an extraordinary, stranger-than-fiction story that has sparked a scientific upheaval.

In The Monkey’s Voyage, biologist Alan de Queiroz describes the radical new view of how fragmented distributions came into being: frogs and mammals rode on rafts and icebergs, tiny spiders drifted on storm winds, and plant seeds were carried in the plumage of sea-going birds to create the map of life we see today. In other words, these organisms were not simply constrained by continental fate; they were the makers of their own geographic destiny. And as de Queiroz shows, the effects of oceanic dispersal have been crucial in generating the diversity of life on Earth, from monkeys and guinea pigs in South America to beech trees and kiwi birds in New Zealand. By toppling the idea that the slow process of continental drift is the main force behind the odd distributions of organisms, this theory highlights the dynamic and unpredictable nature of the history of life.

In the tradition of John McPhee’s Basin and Range, The Monkey’s Voyage is a beautifully told narrative that strikingly reveals the importance of contingency in history and the nature of scientific discovery.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:00 -0400)

"Throughout the world, closely related species are found on landmasses separated by wide stretches of ocean. What explains these far-flung distributions? Why are such species found where they are across the Earth? Since the discovery of plate tectonics, scientists have conjectured that plants and animals were scattered over the globe by riding pieces of ancient supercontinents as they broke up. In the past decade, however, that theory has foundered, as the genomic revolution has made reams of new data available. And the data has revealed an extraordinary, stranger-than-fiction story that has sparked a scientific upheaval. In The Monkey's Voyage, biologist Alan de Queiroz describes the radical new view of how fragmented distributions came into being: frogs and mammals rode on rafts and icebergs, tiny spiders drifted on storm winds, and plant seeds were carried in the plumage of sea-going birds to create the map of life we see today. In other words, these organisms were not simply constrained by continental fate; they were the makers of their own geographic destiny. And as de Queiroz shows, the effects of oceanic dispersal have been crucial in generating the diversity of life on Earth, from monkeys and guinea pigs in South America to beech trees and kiwi birds in New Zealand. By toppling the idea that the slow process of continental drift is the main force behind the odd distributions of organisms, this theory highlights the dynamic and unpredictable nature of the history of life."--… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
12 wanted

Popular covers

Rating

Average: (4.05)
0.5
1 1
1.5
2
2.5
3
3.5 1
4 4
4.5
5 4

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 119,430,287 books! | Top bar: Always visible