Tag Archives: plants

The Biology of Extremes: Superlative by Matthew D. LaPlante

Superlative: The Biology of Extremes by Matthew D. LaPlante is not just about extremes, but about all the things in between that make the extremes extreme. LaPlante looks at size, speed, age, intelligence. For all the various subtopics that come up in such an exploration, LaPlante does a great job of bringing in the latest research. Mostly, this is a collection of interesting evolutionary and biological stories that happen to involve tiny things, giant things, old things, fast things, or things that are in some other way — superlative.

Go for a swim with a ghost shark, the slowest-evolving creature known to humankind, which is teaching us new ways to think about immunity. Get to know the axolotl, which has the longest-known genome and may hold the secret to cellular regeneration. Learn about Monorhaphis chuni, the oldest discovered animal, which is providing insights into the connection between our terrestrial and aquatic worlds.

I’m not endorsing every idea or story in this book. One can not write a book about adaptations and have any evolutionary biologist worth their salt not bump on things. But the author does an honest and straightforward job of representing the research, and you’ll learn quite a bit that is new, see new perspectives on things you’ve considered in the past, and you’ll enjoy LaPlante’s writing.

I will probably be recommending this volume as a holiday gift for the Uncle who has everything or the teenager who likes natural history. Teachers of wildlife biology, evolution, or related topics will be able to mine this volume for stories. The use of footnotes is notable.* I recommend Superlative

  • … and well done.

The best of the best in plant biology, conservation, photography, and evolution

I have about ten favorite species of tree, and one of them is the corotú. Why? Because of one of the most interesting plant-animal interaction stories of recent times. The story, complete with extinct elephant-like creatures and a real Sherlock Holmes science theme can be read, along with some great images, at A Neotropical Savanna: The Corotú and the Gomphothere.
Continue reading The best of the best in plant biology, conservation, photography, and evolution