Zoology: Inside the Secret World of Animals
Beauty is alluring, truth is essential, and art is surely humanity’s purest reaction to these ideals. But what of that other irrepressible human trait—curiosity? Well, for me curiosity is the fuel for science, which in turn is the art of understanding truth and beauty. And this beautiful book presents a perfect fusion of these paragons, celebrating art, revealing remarkable truths, and igniting a curiosity for natural science.
In life all form must have a function, it can be in transition, but it’s never redundant. This means that from childhood onward, we can study and question the shapes and structures of natural forms and try to determine what they are for and how they work. I remember examining a feather, weighing it, preening it, bending it, twisting it to watch its iridescence flash from green to purple, all the while working through a process of understanding why it was an asset to bird flight and behavior. Such investigation is perhaps the most fundamental skill of a naturalist and the essential technique of a scientist. And then I tried to paint it, its simple beauty the inspiration for art.
Natural forms also allow us to identify relatedness between species, throwing light on their evolution, which in turn opens our eyes to how we group them together. Of course there are tricksters—mammals with beaks that lay eggs! It’s certainly fun to discover how our predecessors were fooled by these strange anomalies, but it’s even more satisfying to uncover the truth as to why animals evolved such apparently bizarre forms.
This book reveals that nature is not short of such fascinations and revels in the joy that we can never completely satisfy our curiosities because there is always more to learn and know about life
what is an animal?
Animals differ from the two other major kingdoms of multicellular organisms—fungi and plants—in the fabric of their bodies. Animals have collagen protein holding their cells together into tissues, and and all but the simplest use nerves and muscles to move. Whether rooted to one spot like sponges, or as active as ants, animals gather food. Unlike fungi that absorb dead matter, or photosynthesizing plants, animals feed on other organisms.
All animals alive today have descended from different animals in the past by a process of evolution. No single individual evolves, rather entire populations accumulate differences over many generations. Mutation—random replication errors in the genetic material—is the source of inherited variation, while other evolutionary processes, notably natural selection the driving source of adaptation—determine which variants survive and reproduce. Over millions of years small changes add up to bigger ones, helping explain the appearance of new species
types of animal
Scientists have described some 1.5 million species of animals. They organize this diversity into groups of animals whose shared characteristics suggest common ancestry. Some, such as echinoderms, have a starlike radial symmetry; others have bodies arranged like our own—with head and tail ends. Most are popularly called invertebrates, because they lack a backbone. But invertebrates as different as a sponge and an insect otherwise have nothing uniquely in common and no direct evolutionary relationship, so scientists do not recognize them as a natural group
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