Quirks of Human Anatomy

An Evo-Devo Look at the Human Body



Lewis I. Held, Jr.


Cambridge University Press, 2009


ISBN: 978-0-521-73233-8

This book was published to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species (and Darwin’s 200th birthday), and what a fitting tribute it is! Here you will find a wonderful collection of quirks and anatomical oddities that you might have wondered about (for instance, why do we have visceral asymmetry, or why do males have mammary glands?) but never really knew how to explain. Using the lens of natural selection the author explains these oddities, and many more, to the wonderment of the reader. The meager 152 pages of text are filled with curious, amazing and important tidbits of information on evolution and development that will make you think long and hard about our (read Homo sapiens’) place in the family tree of life. The reader’s journey is made much more pleasurable with very informative figures that richly supplement the text. Even more refreshing is the addition of “reflection” boxes that further elaborate on the figures, and give the reader more food for thought. There is no doubt that you will come away smarter, wiser and more fascinated about biology after perusing this book.

Possibly the most stunning element about this book is the insanely large bibliography. There are 85 pages containing just under 3000 references on all topics discussed, making it a great academic resource for both novices and experts alike. This said, I would be remiss if I don’t caution the novices that basic knowledge in phylogenetics, anatomy, cellular biology and developmental biology would greatly enhance the reading experience. Although not absolutely essential to gain valuable information from this book, being comfortable with terms like Urbilaterian, transcription factor or signal transduction pathway will make your life easier.