In the Blink of an Eye: How Vision Kick-started the Big Bang of Evolution

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9780743257336: In the Blink of an Eye: How Vision Kick-started the Big Bang of Evolution

Between 543 and 538 million years ago, something remarkable happened. After hundreds of millions of years of gradual and painstaking evolution, suddenly the process exploded into life. For the first time animals evolved hard external parts. For the first time there was evidence of active predation, with both hunters and hunted rapidly developing both armaments and defences. And in this short space of time -- the blink of an eye, in geological terms -- the number of different classifications of animals, or phyla, mushroomed from three to thirty-eight, the number we still have today. The 'when' and the 'what' of this extraordinary event, known as the 'Cambrian Explosion', have been known for some years and were made famous in Stephen Jay Gould's bestselling book WONDERFUL LIFE. What has until now been speculation is the 'why'. Andrew Parker's astounding explanation, which is becoming increasingly influential and accepted, is fully explored and described in this groundbreaking book. A scientific detective story which encompasses disciplines as diverse as biology, history, geology and art, IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE is destined to become a popular-science classic.

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About the Author:

Andrew Parker was born in 1967. After completing his Ph.D. in Marine Biology he worked as a postdoctoral fellow in Australia, Poland and the United States. He is currently a Royal Society Research Fellow in the Department of Zoology at Oxford University. This is his first book.

From Publishers Weekly:

Oxford University zoologist Parker tackles one of biology's biggest mysteries in this nontechnical account. He provides a relatively simple explanation for the sudden explosion of life forms that defines the boundary between the pre-Cambrian and Cambrian eras approximately 543 million years ago: "The Cambrian explosion was triggered by the sudden evolution of vision" in simple organisms. In Parker's "Light Switch" theory, active predation became possible with the advent of vision, and prey species found themselves under extreme pressure to adapt in ways that would make them less likely to be spotted. New habitats opened as organisms were able to see their environment for the first time, and an enormous amount of specialization occurred as species differentiated. Parker claims that his theory is far more robust than previous attempts to explain the surge in diversity, even those most recently advanced by proponents of a snowball earth (the theory presented by Gabrielle Walker in Snowball Earth). In readable prose, Parker provides detailed information on the fossil record as well as a wealth of interesting material on the role light plays in environments and how vision operates across a host of species. Although at times his tangents are a bit distracting, Parker's book will bring his controversial ideas to the general public. Photos and line drawings.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Andrew Parker
Published by Free Press (2004)
ISBN 10: 0743257332 ISBN 13: 9780743257336
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Book Description Free Press, 2004. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0743257332

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