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99% Ape

How Evolution Adds Up

In his lifetime, Charles Darwin was roundly mocked for suggesting that humans were descended from apes, and even in our own day, the teaching of evolution remains controversial. But in the century and a half since the publication of On the Origin of Species, our increasingly sophisticated understanding of genetics has borne out Darwin’s theory: humans share 99% of their genes with chimps (and many even with grapes!).

            99% Ape offers an accessible, straightforward introduction to evolution, beginning with Darwin’s discoveries and continuing through the latest genetic discoveries. Edited by Jonathan Silvertown, the volume brings together experts in a variety of fields pertinent to evolution, from paleobiology to planetary science, comparative anatomy to zoology, and even—for a discussion of legal battles surrounding the teaching of evolution—law. Interwoven with these varied accounts of evolution and its impact are vignettes from Darwin’s life that illustrate the continuity of thought that links Darwin’s work to today’s cutting-edge research.

            Beautifully illustrated, 99% Ape is a perfect companion to the upcoming celebration of Darwin’s bicentennial and a bracing reminder of the important role evolution still has to play in our understanding of our origins—and our possible futures.

224 pages | 20 halftones, 225 color plates | 7 1/2 x 10 | © 2009

Biological Sciences: Anatomy, Biochemistry, Evolutionary Biology, Natural History, Physiology, Biomechanics, and Morphology


“[An] attractive, easy-to-navigate book that explains the data supporting evolutionary theory. . . . Readers will learn about the myriad interactions among genes and how easy these interactions make it for new evolutionary patterns and processes to develop. And readers will learn that evidence from a wide variety of fields, from geology to molecular genetics, physiology and evolutionary psychology, consistently support one another, demonstrating the power of evolutionary theory. The abundant and very attractive color pictures help illustrate the underlying science and are a pleasure to look at in their own right.”

Publishers Weekly

"This readable book provieds an evidence-based defense of the concept of biological evolution. . . . The book is filled with excellent examples of evolutionary studies. The lavish illustrations are clear and used well, the design is stunning, and the book is reasonably priced."


Table of Contents



Chapter 1 99% Ape

Evolution liberates

Evolutionary trees

Darwin, apes & Victorians

Darwin’s insights

What’s in 1%?

Chapter 2. Darwin’s brilliant idea

Design without a designer

Canine friends in sickness and in health

Natural selection

Chapter 3. The tree of life

Scientific classification of species

Cracking the mystery of species

Ideas on trial

The geological timescale

Darwin’s evolving ideas

Branches and trees

Enter the star witness – DNA

Chapter 4. First life

The meaning of life

Life’s first spark

Earliest signs

Life in hot water


Chapter 5. African genesis

In the beginning ...

The ‘prime’ animals

History from molecules

             Body building

Chapter 6. An Eye for Darwin


Eye Design

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue

Chapter 7. A fish out of water

Becoming terrestrial

Fishy relations

Hiding in the deep blue sea

Extinct and extant amphibians

Fish fingers

Resurrecting genes

Many were called, few were chosen

Chapter 8. A whale of a problem

After the dinosaurs

Aquatic for life

Whale characters

Whale origins

SINEs point the way

Ancient whales

Steps to leglessness

Chapter 9. Feathered fossils

Fossilized families

German aviation and Chinese dragons

Chicken feathers

Forming feathers: an orderly death

Genes and fossils reconciled

New structures, same old genes


Chapter 10. In the genes

The family face

Chromosome choreography

Genes for every occasion

Why be different?

Chapter 11. New species from old

On the Origin of…what?

Losing touch

Speedy speciation

Knowing your own

Homebound lives

The leaky boundaries of species

Chromosome doubling: a quick recipe for greens

No sex, please, we’re budding

Fossils and species

Chapter 12. Darwin’s finches

Evolution isles

The fame of the finch

From one species to fifteen

Beaks and seeds

Beaks and genes

A lifetime’s work

Chapter 13. The flowers of evolution

First plants

Russian dolls and malaria

The greening of the land

The rise of the flowering plants

New patterns among the green branches of the tree of life

A big flower with small beginnings

Madagascan star orchid

Chapter 14. The race from Africa

The end of the line for Homo

The human saga written in DNA

Technological advances

Oil-and-water, or a cocktail?

The Y in Asia

Neanderthals – a skeleton in our cupboard?

The race from Africa, timed by the molecular clock

             Here and now

Chapter 15. Catch me if you can

Truce or consequences

Friend and foe

Evolving disease

Gene swapping

Ideal homes for microbes

Dangerous responses

Hitchhiking between hosts

Lousy evolution

Chapter 16. Darwin in mind

Evolutionary psychology

Hunter-gatherer hangovers

Culture club

Chapter 17. Why be good?

Good behaviour


The origin of morals

In the public eye

For as you were when first your eye I eyed

Chapter 18. The science of evolution

Evolution versus creation: science and non-science

The Scopes monkey trial

Creationism in disguise

Evolution and religion

Logos and mythos

Chapter 19. What next?

Are we still evolving?

Spectacles and evolution

Old age – when natural selection retires

The long view

Evolution in the Anthropocene


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