Posts Tagged paleontology
B.L. Beatty about Pinhasi, R.& Mays, S. (eds.) 2008. Advances in Human Palaeopathology. – Hoboken, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Paleopathology, as a science, has a deep and rich history, and most so for that which is focused on humans. Cases of pathologies in mummies, ancient buried skeletons, and even simply historical records are abundant, and have been praised not just for helping us understand the history of disease, but also in the role they play in humanizing history and historical figures. But this focus on cases has resulted in little available literature and direction in methods that are not simply the methods used by modern pathologists. While the interpretation of paleopathologies has had some very helpful standardization (Buikstra & Ubelaker, 1994), as well as discussions on theoretical limitations and opportunities in how they should be interpreted in animals in an evolutionary context (Beatty & Heckert, 2009, Beatty & Rothschild, 2009, Beatty & Dooley, 2010, Wolff, 2008, Wolff, 2009), methodologies used with modern technologies are largely relegated to the primary literature. In Pinhasi and Mays’s recent edited volume, “Advances in Human Palaeopathology”, we get a comprehensive collection of all the most up to date reviews on modern methods used in paleopathology of ancient humans. The book is organized in two parts: Analytical Approaches in Palaeopathology (chapters 1-9) and Diagnosis and Interpretation of Disease in Human Remains (chapters 10-16). Here I will review these chapters for their content and how they may be utilized by vertebrate palaeontologists.
B.L. Beatty about Sepkoski, D. & Ruse, M. (eds.) 2009. The Paleobiological Revolution. – Chicago, University of Chicago Press
The history of palaeontology tends to focus on Darwin, Cope and Marsh, or if someone is particularly scholarly, the Burgess Shale. But with the exception of studies on Darwin, few of these ever delve deeper in the broader meaning of the history of palaeontology in any Kuhnian paradigm shifting nature. That may be because palaeontology, despite all the excitement over new technologies and integrations with developmental biology, morphometrics or cladistics, is still largely dependant on classical methods – one needs to find and dig up the fossils, then identify and describe them, before much else can be done with them. Palaeontology had remained something of a “stamp-collecting” science, at least on a procedural basis as it was perceived, until the development of what most would call paleobiology. This book, edited by David Sepkoski and Michael Ruse, is a chronicle of the history of how paleobiology got “to the high table” in evolutionary biology. Perhaps most impressive, these editors managed to get these chapters together so cohesively, and by many of the original authors of seminal papers in what started in the early 1970s, including Raup, Bambach, Hallam, Sepkoski, and Valentine. It is unfortunate that Steven J. Gould and Jack Sepkoski and Tom Schopf did not live to contribute to this, but it is clear from the repeated focus on these individuals in the chapters by others that their influence is omnipresent despite their lack of authorship here.