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I, Mammal – The Story of What Makes Us MammalsBy Liam Drew

Purva Variyar reviews I, Mammal – The Story of What Makes Us Mammals by Liam Drew.

Book Details

I, Mammal – The Story of What Makes Us Mammals
By Liam Drew
Published by Bloomsbury Sigma
Paperback; 330 pages;
Price: Rs. 504/-

You, reader, are a mammal first and human second. And Liam Drew takes that very seriously. We know a lot about what makes us humans, but what makes us mammals? How much of ourselves do we share with other mammals? Drew makes us think, have fun and learn in I, Mammal. He begins with heartfelt moments of his daughter’s birth, and his wife’s pregnancy, sensitively highlighting those ‘mammalian’ moments, which stood out in his memory – from how his daughter developed in the womb, live birth (viviparity) to breastfeeding (lactation), and more.

The book takes you through the evolution of mammals and our understanding of them. There was a time when mammals went by the term ‘quadruped’ and when scientists thought that the platypus’ anatomy was a joke played on them. Chapter by chapter, the focus shifts from one mammalian trait to another, as Drew traces the trajectory of their development, and embellishes it with interesting facts and trivia.

Mammals have an interesting evolutionary history that spans 310 million years when our ancestors split from today’s reptilian progenitors. The earliest mammals even lived alongside the domineering and much-larger dinosaurs for more than a hundred million years. The mammalian domination of the planet began only after the age of dinosaurs came to an abrupt end.

Reading this book opened my eyes to my own anatomy, similarities and differences that I share with nearly 5,000 other species of mammals. We most certainly take our intelligent mammalian design for granted, when we should be marvelling at our evolution – not from our usual high-handed, anthropocentric standpoint that features humans at the helm of the evolutionary tree. We are a mere species, among thousands that have come and gone before us on the mammalian phylogenetic branch.

The world needs more science writers to bridge the gap (more like a conditioned mental block) between science and lay persons. And books like I, Mammal are a good way to do that. In celebration of being a mammal, read this book.

First publshed in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXXVIII No. 8, August 2018.
 
 
 

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