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Dave Holley (pdf)

Ann Moyal

Platypus

The discovery of the duck-billed platypus came as a shock to nineteenth century biologists - some people even claimed that it was a hoax, put together out of parts of other animals. In 'Platypus' Ann Moyal tells the story of the problems it caused in the developing science of taxonomy, of the rivalry between the British and the French over classification of newly discovered animals, and how the question was eventually settled. Moyal looks at how the scientists of the day, such as Charles Darwin, Richard Owen and Thomas Huxley, reacted to the platypus, and conversely the effect that dealing with this challenge had upon their careers.

Now it's a difficult task to present the history of taxonomy in an exciting way and I would say that Ann Moyal doesn't really succeed. The book isn't hard to read, but I felt that moving between the careers of different scientists meant that it lacked the central thread it needed. I finished the book feeling that I hadn't really learnt very much, and that those interested in the discovery of the creature would do better to read Stephen J Gould's short essay 'To be a platypus' in the book Bully for Brontosaurus.

Amazon.com info
Hardcover 240 pages  
ISBN: 1560989777
Salesrank: 117508
Weight:0.7 lbs
Published: 2001 Smithsonian Books
Marketplace:New from $21.00:Used from $2.50
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Amazon.co.uk info
Paperback 248 pages  
ISBN: 0801880521
Salesrank: 4015954
Weight:0.6 lbs
Published: 2004 Johns Hopkins University Press
Amazon price £13.50
Marketplace:New from £13.50:Used from £7.80
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Amazon.ca info
Hardcover 240 pages  
ISBN: 1560989777
Salesrank: 492952
Weight:0.7 lbs
Published: 2001 Smithsonian Books
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 67.10:Used from CDN$ 10.15
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Product Description
This is the enigmatic story of a biological riddle that confounded scientists for nearly ninety years, challenging theories of creationism, evolution, and classification of species along the way. Secretive, elusive, and beguiling, the platypus has continued to captivate public and scientific attention to the present day.

When the first platypus specimen reached England from Australia in 1799, the scientific community claimed that it was a hoax. On closer investigation, dubious European naturalists eventually declared it to be real, though in an age obsessed with classification, the category-defying platypus sparked heated debates across Europe for a century. In Platypus, Ann Moyal provides a unique biography of one of the world's most famously strange creatures and tells the incredible story of how it became the focus of the great scientific debates of the nineteenth century. Eloquent and concise, Platypus uncovers the earliest theories and latest discoveries about this delightfully odd member of the animal kingdom.