Book Review: Your Inner Fish

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Your Inner Fish


Neil Shubin

Vintage Books



“What do billions of years of history mean for our lives today? Answers to fundamental questions we face—about the inner workings of our organs and our place in nature—will come from understanding how our bodies and minds have emerged from parts common to other living creatures.” (201)


National bestseller Your Inner Fish by paleontologist Neil Shubin takes the reader on a journey through the history of the human body, beginning 3.5 billion years ago. Shubin begins by telling the story of his team’s discovery of Tiktaalik, a 375-million-year old fossil specimen representing an intermediate between fish and primitive land-living animals. By uncovering Tiktaalik, Shubin and his team uncovered evidence of the deep connection humans have with our fish ancestors.

Shubin then begins to tell the tale of our history: our history as fish, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals that is rooted in our morphology and DNA. He weaves information from fields such as genetics, paleontology, embryology, and evolutionary biology to illustrate the connection humans have not only to our ancestors, but to every living organism on the planet. Many of our features, including our limbs, teeth, skull, body plan, vision, sense of smell, and our ears can be traced back to our inner fish, our inner reptile, and even our inner bacteria. Want to know why mammals suffer from hiccups? Look no further than our fish and amphibian ancestors that are brought to life in Your Inner Fish. With his lighthearted and elegant prose, Shubin creates a wondrous scientific narrative that will leave the reader with a new appreciation of what it means to be human.

Your Inner Fish was awarded the Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science in 2008 and the National Academy of Sciences Science Communication Award for Best Book in 2009. The late-Oliver Sacks described Your Inner Fish as a book that “shows us how, like the fish with elbows, we carry the whole history of evolution within our own bodies, and how the human genome links us with the rest of life on earth.” For readers that are fascinated by the evolution of the human body and our connection to living things, past and present, Your Inner Fish is expertly-written, thorough, and approachable.

Author Neil Shubin is currently serving as Associate Dean of Academic Strategy and is a Robert R. Bensley Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy at the University of Chicago. He has also previously served as the Provost of the Field Museum and is presently the Senior Advisor to the President of the University for the Marine Biological Laboratory affiliation, of which he is an interim co-director.

Your Inner Fish also has a three-part series hosted by PBS that can be enjoyed by all.

Emily Dodd