PENGUINS: Past and Present, Here and There by George Gaylord Simpson

PENGUINS: Past and Present, Here and There

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There is something irresistibly human about an AdÉlie penguin hurrying along an Antarctic beach,"" remarks the distinguished paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson. While his major concern has been fossil mammals, he confesses to being an ardent penguin watcher from way back. He is fascinated by their variety (some six genera and eighteen species), their range--from Antarctica as far north as Galapagos, New Zealand, or the African coast--and, of course, their unique adaptations for living. In a scholarly if sometimes too leisurely manner, he records the first European sightings of the birds, examines the fossil record, and describes details of anatomy and behavior. Did you know that penguins actually fly under water, using their wings as flippers and their feet as rudders? That they are so well adapted to cold they have more trouble handling warmth? That they cannily navigate (even when the sun is not visible) to the site of their birth or former breeding ground? That they recognize each other by voice rather than sight? All this and more about varied life cycles, ""marriage and divorce rates,"" childrearing, predators, and so on is presented in detail. The chapters on early human encounters and general penguin characteristics have the most immediate appeal; those on taxonomy, species differences, or evolutionary origins complete the scholarly coverage but tend to tedium. They do, however, usefully introduce the student to the general orientation of paleontology by focusing on one successful order rather than trying to encompass the entire field of evolution.

Pub Date: June 2nd, 1976
Publisher: Yale Univ. Press