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The Link by Colin Tudge

The Link

by Colin Tudge

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Well, I'm not terribly well-versed on paleo-anthropology, but I followed the science of this just by reading attentively - it was that clearly written.

I found both the Young chapters (more about Ida and her scientists, roughly) and the Tudge chapters (more about the big picture of how primate evolution is being worked out, roughly) fascinating.

I loved the close-up pictures of Ida and other fossils, and the explanations of how scientists can tell so much about a critter from a fragments of a jaw (and why it's so often only the jaw that is found). I loved the description of the Eocene world and of the significance of the Messel pit.

If you're looking for an adventure of how some cool dudes found the earliest ancestor of people, don't read this. If you want to learn about primate evolution, do. ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 6, 2016 |
While the Ida fossil is probably not a direct link fossil for humans to primates, it is still a really important discovery.

( )
  Schlyne | Nov 12, 2015 |
O elo - a incrível descoberta do ancestral mais antigo do ser humano' oferece uma investigação sobre Ida e as origens do homem.
  melissa.gamador | Sep 6, 2014 |
Quite a technical book with sections that a layperson like me could struggle with. Other sections are repetitive and iy feels like they actually have very little to say about Ida herself. However, overall an interesting read. ( )
  LouieAndTheLizard | Aug 15, 2013 |
Upon finishing The Link my first thought was that I could easily divide it into the interesting parts (at the beginning and the end) and the boring and dry (the middle). Then I read the acknowledgments at the end of the book and discovered that it was written by two authors and one of them wrote the parts I liked, the other wrote the dry middle section.

I think the authors really missed an opportunity with this book. I say that because it has a lot of information that could have made for a compelling and interesting read. Unfortunately the writing was so dry, with many lists and descriptions of ancient animals and their habitats, that I quickly lost interest.

The first and last sections of the book will appeal more to the general public. They contain the story of the discovery of Ida and discuss the possible effects that discovery could have on the scientific community and future research. There are also some nice color photos included in the book, as well as diagrams and three dimensional reconstructions of Ida's fossil.

There was a lot of potential for this to be an exciting popular nonfiction book, and if that was what the authors were going for then they really mistook their audience, particularly in the dryer, more scientific section of the book. So what turned me off from this book? The bulk of it reads like a textbook, briefly cataloging and describing the various animals of the time. Interspersed are interesting tidbits, but you have to hunt for them (or have an unusual love of textbook-style writing). On one hand the information on geology and evolution is introductory, on the other it is written using such dry scientific and technical terms that the non-academic reader will probably lose interest.

Detailed scientific information is not a bad thing in and of itself, except the text then drones on and on about each type of animal in the Messel area during the Eocene. It reads like a catalog or index of animals. Here's an example:

Though we have only one of its bones from Messel Pit - a femur found a very long time ago, in mining days - the biggest of all the Messel birds was Gastornis, which stood more than six feet (2 meters) high and yet was stocky, weighing in at 220 pounds (100 kilograms), with a head as big as a modern pony's and a huge eaglelike beak. Here the American connection is very strong, for Gastornis seems to be more or less the same as the American Diatryma. Page 85

And it continues in that style, animal description after animal description.

If you have a deep desire to know about the many different types of animals that lived in the Eocene in the area of the Messel Pit, then by all means pick up this book. I do think that I have a better understanding of the Eocene and Ida's place in evolutionary history after reading this book, I just wish it wouldn't have been so boring.

I received a free copy of this book for review via Goodreads. ( )
  akreese | May 16, 2013 |
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To Ida
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In the glow of a gibbous moon, a petite being moves through the palm trees surrounding a lake that seems almost impossibly pristine.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The Link is a well written story of Ida, the first complete primate fossil ever found. Author Colin Tudge teaches the reader of the importance of this find, along with the science of paleontology with the ease of story teller.
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Colin Tudge tells the history of Ida--a perfectly fossilized early primate predating the most famous primate fossil, Lucy, by 44 million years--and her place in the world. At the same time, he explains how Ida opens a stunningly evocative window into our past and changes what we know about primate evolution and, ultimately, our own.… (more)

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