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Encyclopedia > The Ancestor's Tale
The Ancestor's Tale cover
The Ancestor's Tale cover

The Ancestor's Tale (subtitled "A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Life") is a 2004 popular science book by Richard Dawkins, with contributions from Dawkins' research assistant Yan Wong. It follows the path of humans backwards through evolutionary history, meeting humanity's cousins as they converge on common ancestors. The book was nominated for the 2005 Aventis Prize for Science Books. Image File history File links AncestorsTale2. ... Image File history File links AncestorsTale2. ... 2004 (MMIV) was a leap year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar. ... This article is not about the magazine, Popular Science Popular science is interpretation of science intended for a general audience, rather than for other scientists or students. ... Look up book in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Richard Dawkins Clinton Richard Dawkins DSc, FRS, FRSL (known as Richard Dawkins; born March 26, 1941) is an eminent British ethologist, evolutionary theorist, and popular science writer who holds the Charles Simonyi Chair in the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. ... Trinomial name Homo sapiens sapiens Linnaeus, 1758 Humans, or human beings, are bipedal primates belonging to the mammalian species Homo sapiens (Latin for wise man or knowing man) under the family Hominidae (the great apes). ... A hypothetical phylogenetic tree of all extant organisms, based on 16S rRNA gene sequence data, showing the evolutionary history of the three domains of life, bacteria, archaea and eukaryotes. ... The Aventis Prizes for Science Books is an annual award for the previous years best general science writing and best science writing for children. ...


The narrative is structured as a pilgrimage, with all modern animals following their own path through history to the origin of life. Humans meet their cousins at rendezvous points along the way, the points at which species diverged. At each point Dawkins attempts to infer, from molecular and fossil evidence, the probable form of the ancestor and describes the modern animals that join humanity's growing travelling party. This structure is inspired by Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. A pilgrimage is a term primarily used in religion and spirituality of a long journey or search of great moral significance. ... Pre-Cambrian stromatolites in the Siyeh Formation, Glacier National Park. ... It has been suggested that Fossil record be merged into this article or section. ... Chaucer: Illustration from Cassells History of England, circa 1902. ... Canterbury Tales Woodcut 1484 The Canterbury Tales is a collection of stories written by Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century (two of them in prose, the rest in verse). ...


The pilgrimage visits a total of 40 "rendezvous points" from rendezvous zero, the most recent common ancestor of all of humanity, to rendezvous 39, eubacteria, the ancestor of all surviving organisms. Though Dawkins is confident of the essential shape of this phylogenetic taxonomy, he enters caveats on a small number of branch points where a compelling weight of evidence had not been assembled at the time of writing. Phyla/Divisions Actinobacteria Aquificae Bacteroidetes/Chlorobi Chlamydiae/Verrucomicrobia Chloroflexi Chrysiogenetes Cyanobacteria Deferribacteres Deinococcus-Thermus Dictyoglomi Fibrobacteres/Acidobacteria Firmicutes Fusobacteria Gemmatimonadetes Nitrospirae Omnibacteria Planctomycetes Proteobacteria Spirochaetes Thermodesulfobacteria Thermomicrobia Thermotogae Bacteria is also the fictional name of a warring nation under Benzino Napaloni as dictator, in the 1940 film The Great Dictator...


At each rendezvous point, Dawkins recounts interesting tales about cousin animals which are about to join the band of pilgrims. Every newly recruited species, genus or family has its own peculiar features to offer as amusement for readers. And these features are studied and analyzed using a newly introduced tool or method from evolutionary biology, carefully woven into the tale to illustrate how the few simple assumptions of Darwinian evolution can explain all diversity in nature. In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biodiversity. ... In biology, a genus (plural genera) is a taxonomic grouping. ... In biological classification, family (Latin: familia, plural familiae) is 1) a rank or 2) a taxon in that rank. ... Evolutionary biology is a subfield of biology concerned with the origin and descent of species, as well as their change, multiplication, and diversity over time. ... This article is about Darwinism as a philosophical concept; see evolution for the page on biological evolution; modern evolutionary synthesis for neo-Darwinism; and also evolution (disambiguation). ... A hypothetical phylogenetic tree of all extant organisms, based on 16S rRNA gene sequence data, showing the evolutionary history of the three domains of life, bacteria, archaea and eukaryotes. ...


Even though the book is best read sequentially, every chapter can also be read independently as a self-contained tale with an emphasis on a particular aspect of modern biology. As a whole, the book elaborates on all major topics in evolution. The Ancestor's Tale can be considered an encyclopedia on evolution disguised as a collection of fascinating stories.


Dawkins also tells personal stories about his childhood and time at university. He too seems just as surprised as the reader when he reveals that the closest relatives to the hippos are the whales, which are buried deep within the hoofed mammals. He also discusses why the axolotl never needs to grow up, how new species come about, how hard it is to classify animals and why our fish-like ancestors decided to move on to land. Representation of a university class, 1350s. ... Binomial name Hippopotamus amphibius Linnaeus, 1758 The Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius a. ... Whales are the largest species of exclusively aquatic mammals, members of the order Cetacea, which also includes dolphins and porpoises. ... Families Antilocapridae Bovidae Camelidae Cervidae Giraffidae Hippopotamidae Moschidae Suidae Tayassuidae Tragulidae The even-toed ungulates form the mammal order Artiodactyla. ... Binomial name Ambystoma mexicanum (Shaw, 1789) The Axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) is an aquatic salamander native to Mexico. ... In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biodiversity. ... The Guppy, also known as guppie (Poecilia reticulata) is one of the most popular freshwater aquarium fish species in the world. ...


The book was produced in two hardback versions: a British one with extensive colour illustrations (by Weidenfeld & Nicolson), and an American one with a reduced number of black-and-white illustrations (by Houghton Mifflin). Paperback versions and an abridged audio version (narrated by Dawkins and his wife Lalla Ward) have also been published. Lalla Ward (publicity portrait from 1990). ...


The book is dedicated to Dawkins' friend and mentor, population geneticist John Maynard Smith, who died shortly before the book went to press. Population genetics is the study of the distribution of and change in allele frequencies under the influence of the four evolutionary forces: natural selection, genetic drift, mutation, and migration. ... John Maynard Smith Professor John Maynard Smith, F.R.S. (6 January 1920 – 19 April 2004) was a British evolutionary biologist and geneticist. ...


List of rendezvous points

Trinomial name Homo sapiens sapiens Linnaeus, 1758 Humans, or human beings, are bipedal primates belonging to the mammalian species Homo sapiens (Latin for wise man or knowing man) under the family Hominidae (the great apes). ... Type Species Simia troglodytes Blumenbach, 1775 Species Pan troglodytes Pan paniscus Chimpanzee, often shortened to chimp, is the common name for the two extant species in the genus Pan. ... Type Species Troglodytes gorilla Savage, 1847 Species Gorilla gorilla Gorilla beringei The gorilla, the largest of the living primates, is a ground-dwelling herbivore that inhabits the forests of Africa. ... Type Species Simia pygmaeus Linnaeus, 1760 Species Pongo pygmaeus Pongo abelii The orangutans are two species of great apes with long arms and reddish, sometimes brown, hair native to Malaysia and Indonesia. ... Genera Hylobates Hoolock Nomascus Symphalangus Gibbons are the small apes that are grouped in the family Hylobatidae. ... Subfamilies Cercopithecinae - 11 genera Colobinae - 9 genera The Old World monkeys or Cercopithecidae are a group of primates, falling in the superfamily Cercopithecoidea in the clade Catarrhini. ... Families Cebidae Nyctipithecidae Pitheciidae Atelidae The New World monkeys or Platyrrhines are the four families of primates that are found in Central and South America, the Cebidae, Nyctipithecidae, Pitheciidae and Atelidae. ... Type Species Lemur tarsier Erxleben, 1777 Species Tarsius syrichta Tarsius bancanus Tarsius tarsier Tarsius dentatus Tarsius pelengensis Tarsius sangirensis Tarsius pumilus The tarsiers are the members of the Tarsius genus of prosimian primates, monotypic in the Tarsiidae family and Tarsiiformes infraorder. ... Superfamilies and Families Cheirogaleoidea Cheirogaleidae Lemuroidea Lemuridae Lepilemuridae Indriidae Lemurs are part of a class of primates known as prosimians, and make up the infraorder Lemuriformes. ... Genera For other uses, see Galago (disambiguation). ... Species  Cynocephalus varigatus  Cynocephalus volans Colugos are arboreal gliding mammals found in South-east Asia. ... Families Tupaiidae Ptilocercidae The treeshrews are small mammals native to the tropical forests of Southeast Asia. ... Families See Classification Section The order Rodentia is the most numerous of the branches on the mammal family tree. ... Genera Pentalagus Bunolagus Nesolagus Romerolagus Brachylagus Sylvilagus Oryctolagus Poelagus Rabbits are small mammals in the family Leporidae, found in many parts of the world. ... Laurasiatheria is a proposed clade with the rank of cohort or super-order, of the Epitheria infraclass of the Placentalia (living) or Eutheria (Placentals and their extinct ancestors) subclass of Mammals, based on molecular and DNA research It is a sister group to Euarchontoglires. ... Families Myrmecophagidae Megalonychidae Bradypodidae Dasypodidae The order Xenarthra is a group of placental mammals, extant today only in the Americas. ... Afrotheria are a clade of mammals with the rank of cohort, that has been proposed based on DNA analysis. ... Orders Didelphimorphia Paucituberculata Microbiotheria Dasyuromorphia Peramelemorphia Notoryctemorphia Diprotodontia Marsupials are mammals in which the female typically has a pouch (called the marsupium, from which the name Marsupial derives) in which it rears its young through early infancy. ... Families Kollikodontidae(extinct) Ornithorhynchidae- Platypus Tachyglossidae- Echidnas Steropodontidae(extinct) Monotremes (monos, single + trema, hole; refers to the cloaca) are mammals that lay eggs, instead of giving birth to live young like marsupials (Metatheria) and placental mammals (Eutheria). ... Clades Subclass Anapsida Subclass Diapsida Infraclass Lepidosauromorpha Infraclass Archosauromorpha Sauropsida is an amniote clade that includes all recent and all or almost all extinct reptiles (excluding the Synapsida), and birds. ... Subclasses and Orders Order Temnospondyli- extinct Subclass Lepospondyli- extinct Subclass Lissamphibia   Anura   Caudata   Gymnophiona Amphibians (class Amphibia) are a taxon of animals that include all tetrapods (four-legged vertebrates) that do not have amniotic eggs. ... Orders See text. ... Families See text Coelacanth (meaning hollow thorn, from the Greek coelia, κοιλιά (hollow) and acanthos, άκανθος (thorn)); IPA: ) is the common name for an order of fish that includes the oldest living lineage of jawed fish known to date. ... Orders See text The Actinopterygii are the ray-finned fish. ... Orders Carcharhiniformes Heterodontiformes Hexanchiformes Lamniformes Orectolobiformes Pristiophoriformes Squaliformes Squatiniformes Sharks are a group (superorder Selachimorpha) of fish, with a full cartilaginous skeleton and a streamlined body, with normally 5, but up to 7 (depending on species) gill slits along the side of, or beginning slightly behind, the head (in some... Subfamilies Geotriinae Mordaciinae Petromyzontinae A lamprey is a jawless fish with a toothed, funnel-like sucking mouth, with which most species bore into the flesh of other fishes to suck their blood. ... Genera Eptatretus Myxine Nemamyxine Neomyxine Notomyxine Paramyxine Quadratus This article is about the Hagfish. ... Families Asymmetronidae Branchiostomidae The lancelets (subphylum Cephalochordata, and traditionally known as the amphioxus) are a group of primitive chordates. ... Classes Ascidiacea Thaliacea Appendicularia Sorberacea Urochordata (sometimes known as tunicata and commonly called urochordates, tunicates, sea squirts or cunji) is the subphylum of saclike filter feeders with input and output siphons. ... Ambulacrarians includes the echinoderms and the hemichordates. ... Groups Protostomes (from the Greek: first the mouth) are a taxon of animals. ... The Acoelomorpha are a phylum of animals formerly considered flatworms, but now known to be a separate group, basal among the Bilateria. ... Classes Cnidaria (silent c - pronounced // from New Latin cnida, fr. ... This article or section is in need of attention from an expert on the subject. ... Trichoplax adhaerens is a simple balloon-like marine animal with a body cavity filled with pressurized fluid. ... Classes Calcarea Hexactinellida Demospongiae The sponges or poriferans (from the Greek poros pore and ferro to bear) are animals of the phylum Porifera. ... The choanoflagellates are a group of flagellate protozoa. ... Orders Dermocystida Ichthyophonida The Mesomycetozoea or DRIP clade are a small group of protists, mostly parasites of fish and other animals. ... Divisions Chytridiomycota Deuteromycota Zygomycota Glomeromycota Ascomycota Basidiomycota A fungus (plural fungi) is a eukaryotic organism that digests its food externally and absorbs the nutrient molecules into its cells. ... Subgroups Mycetozoa(slime moulds) Archamoebae    Pelobiontida    Entamoebida Gymnamoebia Various others The Amoebozoa are a major group of amoeboid protozoa, including the majority that move by means of internal cytoplasmic flow. ... Divisions Land plants (embryophytes) Non-vascular plants (bryophytes) Marchantiophyta - liverworts Anthocerotophyta - hornworts Bryophyta - mosses Vascular plants (tracheophytes) Lycopodiophyta - clubmosses Equisetophyta - horsetails Pteridophyta - true ferns Psilotophyta - whisk ferns Ophioglossophyta - adderstongues Seed plants (spermatophytes) †Pteridospermatophyta - seed ferns Pinophyta - conifers Cycadophyta - cycads Ginkgophyta - ginkgo Gnetophyta - gnetae Magnoliophyta - flowering plants Adiantum pedatum (a fern... Phyla / Classes Phylum Crenarchaeota Phylum Euryarchaeota     Halobacteria     Methanobacteria     Methanococci     Methanopyri     Archaeoglobi     Thermoplasmata     Thermococci Phylum Korarchaeota Phylum Nanoarchaeota Archaea (; from Greek αρχαία, old ones; singular Archaeum, Archaean, or Archaeon), also called Archaebacteria (), is a major division of living organisms. ... Phyla/Divisions Actinobacteria Aquificae Bacteroidetes/Chlorobi Chlamydiae/Verrucomicrobia Chloroflexi Chrysiogenetes Cyanobacteria Deferribacteres Deinococcus-Thermus Dictyoglomi Fibrobacteres/Acidobacteria Firmicutes Fusobacteria Gemmatimonadetes Nitrospirae Omnibacteria Planctomycetes Proteobacteria Spirochaetes Thermodesulfobacteria Thermomicrobia Thermotogae Bacteria is also the fictional name of a warring nation under Benzino Napaloni as dictator, in the 1940 film The Great Dictator...

External links

Richard Dawkins
The Selfish Gene • The Extended Phenotype • The Blind Watchmaker • River out of Eden • Climbing Mount Improbable • Unweaving the Rainbow • A Devil's Chaplain • The Ancestor's Tale • The Root of All Evil? • How a Scientist Changed the Way We Think • The God Delusion
See also: Evolution • Gene-centric view of evolution • Memetics • Atheism • Humanism • W. D. Hamilton • Lalla Ward

 
 

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