In The Blink Of An Eye

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9780738206073: In The Blink Of An Eye

The Cambrian Explosion is universally referred to as biology's "Big Bang." About 550 million years ago, there was literally an explosion of life forms, as all the major animal groups suddenly and dramatically appeared. Why did it happen this way? Why didn't these creatures continue the slow, plodding pace of evolution, appearing only very gradually in the fossil record? Although several books have been written about this surprising event, none have explained why it occurred. Indeed, none were able to.Here, for the first time, Oxford zoologist Andrew Parker reveals his theory of this great flourishing of life. Parker's "Light Switch Theory" holds that it was the development of vision in primitive animals that caused the explosion. Precambrian creatures were unable to see, making it impossible to find friend or foe. With the evolution of the eye, the size, shape, color, and behavior of animals was suddenly revealed for the first time. Once the lights were "turned on," all animals had to either adapt or die, and in a geological instant, the world became a very different place. A controversial theory but one that is quickly gaining ground, the Light Switch Theory promises to revolutionize our understanding of life and light. Drawing on evidence not just from biology but also from geology, physics, chemistry, history, and art, In the Blink of an Eye is the fascinating story of a young scientist's intellectual journey, and a celebration of the scientific method.

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About the Author:

Andrew Parker is a Royal Society Research Fellow at Oxford University's Department of Zoology. He has been named by the London Times as one of the three most important young scientists in the world for his work in investigating and answering the great riddle of the Cambrian explosion. He lives in Oxfordshire, England.

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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