Where do turtles hail from? Why and how did they acquire shells? These questions have spurred heated debate and intense research for more than two hundred years. Brilliantly weaving evidence from the latest paleontological discoveries with an accessible, incisive look at different theories of biological evolution and their proponents, Turtles as Hopeful Monsters tells the fascinating evolutionary story of the shelled reptiles. Paleontologist Olivier Rieppel traces the evolution of turtles from over 220 million years ago, examining closely the relationship of turtles to other reptiles and charting the development of the shell. Turtle issues fuel a debate between proponents of gradual evolutionary change and authors favoring change through bursts and leaps of macromutation. The first book-length popular history of its type, this indispensable resource is an engaging read for all those fascinated by this ubiquitous and uniquely shaped reptile.
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"Turtles as Hopeful Monsters is a beautifully written and compelling book. Rieppel knows his subject inside out and has produced an authoritative work. But it is so much more than that – it belies a more far-reaching subject area – the practice of evolutionary biology itself [...] The interplay of diverse disciplines including genetics, developmental biology, palaeontology and, of course, philosophy, are all set out alongside delightful personal insights. From Mendel to Hennig, Darwin to Mayr or Goodrich, Goldschmidt and Gould, Rieppel brilliantly analyses the practitioners and the giants of evolutionary theory."
– Nick Fraser, National Museum of Scotland
"Here they are still with us, boxed up in a shell, seeming survivors of the distant geological past: prehistoric creatures, which both predated and outlived the dinosaurs. A symbol in Hindu and Chinese mythology, the turtle supports the earth – but what supports the turtle?"
– Olivier Rieppel, from the introduction
1. Misplaced Turtles
2. Reptile Classification and Evolution
3. Levels of Evolution
4. Hopeful Monsters
5. The Turtle Shell
6. Fossil Hunting in China
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Olivier Rieppel is Rowe Family Curator of Evolutionary Biology at the Field Museum in Chicago. He is on the editorial board of several peer-reviewed scientific journals, and has himself published more than 350 scientific papers and eight books.