The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life – David Quammen
Thoughts: It’s been a while since I read this book, but I recall enjoying it (as I do much of David Quammen’s writing). Through the stories of scientists debating the organization of life, Quammen outlines how our understanding of it has evolved over time - from a natural order with humans at the top and bacteria at the bottom, to a tree with one trunk and many branches, to a tangled hedge in which genes often jump from one species (or even one kingdom) to another. I’d recommend The Tangled Tree to anyone interested in evolution and the history of life on Earth.
(The notes below are not a summary of the book, but rather raw notes - whatever I thought, at the time, might be worth remembering.)
Quammen, David. 2018. The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life. Simon & Schuster.
- 192: “Whittaker and Margulis noted that classification is a human endeavor, not an inherent reality of the natural world - it’s a matter of discovery plus decision - and that simplicity is important.”
- 193: Polyphyletic taxon: can’t be drawn as a tree limb - it’s a human construct, an organizing principle, that allows the convergence of lineages. E.g. fish
- 267: mentioned: Jonathan Eisen’s “influtential blog” The Tree of Life
- 283: mentioned: Ford Doolittle’s paper in Science June 25 1999 - “Phylogenetic Classification and the Universal Tree”
- 305: to read: Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene
- 317: to read: Ed Yong’s I Contain Multitudes
- 330-331: Stuart Koffman’s books on complexity theory etc.: The Origins of Order; At Home in the Universe
- 345: Must eventually read: Darwin’s On the Origin of Species
- 387: to read: Jan Sapp’s The New Foundations of Evolution
- 389: to read: Eugene Koonin’s The Logic of Chance
Posted: Aug 18, 2021. Last updated: Dec 01, 2022.