Six creatures whose essential appearances haven’t changed in millions of years provide an introduction to the idea of “living fossils.”
Scientist Charles Darwin introduced this phrase in 1859, and, though it’s not scientifically accurate, it’s a popular way to refer to animals that seem to have retained ancient features. Some have even reappeared, alive, after having disappeared in the fossil record. Arnold illustrates this with intriguing examples: coelacanths, horseshoe crabs, dragonflies, tuatara, chambered nautiluses, and Hula painted frogs. Her choices range widely across the animal kingdom and come from around the world. After introducing the concept with the coelacanth, she presents the other five, each with two double-page spreads: then and now. An accompanying narrative describes major features, when and where the species can be found, something about its behavior, and, usually, some natural threats. Further facts appear in the backmatter. The pleasing design offers a clear image of the animal stretching across the fold to a column of text. Inset boxes detail adaptations that have allowed each animal to survive. (In the case of the extremely endangered frog, the question becomes “Will They Survive?”) Plant’s realistic acrylic paintings show his subjects in their natural habitats and, sometimes, as fossils.
School and public libraries whose copies of James Martin’s Living Fossils (1997) have worn out will welcome this inviting new look at a popular subject, as will kids with an interest in paleontology and evolution. (timeline, glossary, resources) (Nonfiction. 7-10)