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Strange New Species: Astonishing Discoveries of Life on Earth    by Elin Kelsey order for
Strange New Species
by Elin Kelsey
Order:  USA  Can
Maple Tree, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, Softcover
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Strange New Species introduces middle graders to 'spectacular new species recently identified', telling us that scientists are discovering more today than at any previous time in history. Information is presented in a magazine like format with wonderful color photos, and intriguing inserts on topics like 'Researcher Profiles'. Others cover 'Hot Debates' on issues like cloning and genetic modification of foods.

Elin Kelsey tells us that technology (such as remotely operated vehicles) facilitates exploration and discovery of new species, as well as their identification. There are about 1.7 million known species now, and we're told there are up to another hundred million (mainly bugs) to be discovered! The book starts with characteristics of classes of species from Birds to Tropical Rain Forests. We learn that Aristotle (4th century BC) described over 500 species, and that Carl Linnaeus created a naming system (taxonomy) in 1757. Then Charles Darwin introduced the notion of evolution in 1859. Modern DNA analysis and computers make species classification faster and easier.

But what about the species themselves? They're covered here in sections on: the Rain Forest, the Deep, X-tremes, extinct ('Gone but Not Forgotten') species, and new species 'Surprises in Everyday Life'. I learned that the adorable looking mouse sized pygmy marmoset is a new kind of monkey, that the London Underground is breeding rapidly evolving mosquitoes, and that the ocean deeps holds a stranger than fiction 'human-sized fish that is almost all gulping, hinged mouth'. The 3 foot tall homo floresiensis, who must have looked awfully like hobbits, also piqued my interest.

Strange New Species gives a fascinating overview, in an engaging format, of the current state of knowledge about all the weird and wonderful critters that share the planet with us.

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