CM . . .
. Volume XVI Number 23. . . .February 19, 2010
Spiked Scorpions & Walking Whales: Modern Animals, Ancient Animals, and Water.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2009.
100 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $19.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55451-205-8 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55451-206-5 (hc.).
Evolution (Biology)-Juvenile literature.
Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.
Review by Gail Hamilton.
But perhaps the most astonishing thing about this squid is the light show it can put on. It has large light-emitting organs behind its two fins and smaller light-emitting organs on the tips of its arms. When the squid is threatened, all its organs glow and pulse with a bluish light. The animal waves its arms frantically so the lights are in constant motion, and it squirts out a kind of mucus loaded with fragments of light-emitting materials. All its would-be attacker can see is a jumble of little lights that might or might not be attached to the animal it intended to eat.
Highly entertaining, engaging and educational, Spiked Scorpions & Walking Whales is an absolute must-read! It provides a fascinating look at the development of a variety of species following water's appearance on Earth over three billion years ago. Covering almost three-quarters of the Earth's surface, water plays an important part in life on Earth. In fact, what all life has in common is a connection to water, from life's origins in the sea and the composition of many plants and animals, to its dependence on water for its very existence. The first, and shortest, of seven chapters briefly describes examples of the earliest forms of life on the planet, while the remainder highlights the evolution of specific groups of animals. Following each chapter are two short sections, one with information relating to the topic, and the other comprised of amazing facts.
Eamer begins by discussing the polychaetes (segmented worms) which appeared in Earth's oceans about half a billion years ago and are still plentiful today. Other topics in the book include cephalopods (with the focus on the nautilus, octopi and squids), sea scorpions (some of which were as large as crocodiles), platypuses, cetaceans and their relationship to land animals, and birds. Physical and behavioural adaptations, as well as changes in animals' DNA, resulted in some animals strictly becoming land dwellers, some strictly becoming sea dwellers, and others suited to both environments. Interspersed among the facts about animal evolution is information about how scientists attempt to piece together the evolutionary puzzle. Of particular interest is the chapter about whales, which includes information about their four-legged hoofed ancestors and their modern-day relatives- camels, pigs, cows, hippos and giraffes. Readers will be surprised to learn that male humpback whales living in Australian waters have completely different songs than those sung by North Atlantic humpbacks and that a blue whale's tongue can weigh as much as an elephant.
Eamer's almost-conversational writing style draws the reader in (one can almost hear her voice narrating a television documentary). She explains evolutionary concepts in a way that kids will understand, poses questions to make them think, and provides little-known facts that will demonstrate to readers how awesome nature is. The illustrations consist of labeled drawings and colour photographs arranged in an attractive layout. Each chapter is printed on a different coloured background, with fun facts for all chapters appearing on purple backgrounds and information on related topics printed on royal blue. A table of contents, an index, and a list of books and a few web sites for further study are included.
Guaranteed to hook readers on science, and well worthy of purchase, Spiked Scorpions & Walking Whales definitely has the "wow" factor!
Gail Hamilton is a retired teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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