Your Inner Fish

BIOLOGY OF THE DAY: Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin

Why do we look the way we do? What does the human hand have in common with the wing of a fly? Are breasts, sweat glands, and scales connected in some way? To better understand the inner workings of our bodies and to trace the origins of many of today’s most common diseases, we have to turn to unexpected sources: worms, flies, and even fish.

Neil Shubin, a leading paleontologist and professor of anatomy who discovered Tiktaalik — the “missing link” that made headlines around the world in April 2006 — tells the story of evolution by tracing the organs of the human body back millions of years, long before the first creatures walked the earth. By examining fossils and DNA, Shubin shows us that our hands actually resemble fish fins, our head is organized like that of a long-extinct jawless fish, and major parts of our genome look and function like those of worms and bacteria.

Shubin makes us see ourselves and our world in a completely new light. Your Inner Fish is science writing at its finest — enlightening, accessible, and told with irresistible enthusiasm.

Phan fluff: Aquarium

Hellooo everyone, yep that’s right I am back with fluff after two whole weeks like wow, this was obvs inspired by all the pics we got from d+p today so yeah enjoy!

(Also can we talk about how active I’ve been on tumblr over the last couple of days, I literally have another post ready for tomorrow aswell so woooo!)


‘Dan’ Phil whispered, quietly.
'Wake up’
Dan didn’t respond. They were lying there in bed next to each other, legs intwined, with Dan’s head buried into Phil’s chest.
'Dan’ Phil repeated, a little louder this time as he tried to scoot away from Dan’s warmth, only causing Dan to bury his head further.
'Don’t wanna move’ Dan groaned as Phil managed to successfully sit up.
'But we’re going out today, we’re going to the aquarium remember?’
'Yeah but jet lag Phil, I’m tired’
They had flown to Singapore the previous day because Phil had decided it would be a nice place to stop on the way to Australia.
'Oh come on you’re always tired, we were both on the same flight and I’m fine’
'I am not always tired!’ Dan protested.
'Prove it then’
'Fine’ Dan rolled his eyes as he over exaggeratedly got out of bed and put on one of Phil’s sweaters.

'You’re really taking your time in there aren’t you?’ Phil huffed. Dan had been in the bathroom for about twenty minutes and Phil was becoming increasingly impatient.
'Well you know, gotta look my best for the fish’ Dan said sounding mockingly seductive as he finally opened the door and was ready to leave.
'At this rate’ Phil began as he opened the hotel room door 'there won’t be any fish left’
'Oh shut up’
Both boys laughed as they shut the door and walked down the hotel corridor.

They didn’t arrive at the aquarium until about 2 o'clock (thanks to Dan), and as soon as they got there they were surrounded by overwhelming crowds of people. They walked up to the booth where a lady stood taking people’s entry money.
'Hello, um two adults please’
'I would have had you down for a child Dan but sure’ Phil mumbled. The woman behind the counter smirked as she seemingly heard this remark, she then handed Dan his change (while Phil was still laughing at his own joke) and gave them both a map of the building.

'Okay so the sharks are here’ said Phil, looking at a little diagram 'and the sea lions are here’
They’d been walking round for a little while, Phil closely examining the map he’d been given in one hand and holding Dan’s hand in the other.
'So we should go… this way’ he gestured to he left. Dan giggled .
'Stop being such a mom, we don’t need to plan our entire day!’
'Okay then, which way do you wanna go?’
'Hmm, what about this way?’ He pointed to the left.
'You just love to contradict my opinion don’t you?’ Phil chuckled as they started walking in Dan’s chosen direction.

'Woah, Phil look!’
They had just turned a corner and walked into a giant room. It was filled with huge tanks and gawping tourists, fish and various other creatures could be seen weaving in and out of each other in the water. Dan ran over to one of the tanks and gasped as a giant shark soared past. Phil snuck up behind to get a picture of him, not realising he had his sound turned on causing his phone made a loud shutter noise as he took it.
'Phil!’ Dan turned around and Phil blushed.
'What you looked cute, Mr hobbit hair’
Dan blushed, even harder than Phil.

'Hey Dan!’ Phil called as he leaned up against one of the tanks to take a selfie. 'Do I look like one of them?’
Dan laughed.
'Yes Phil, you’re truly embracing your inner fish'  he replied sarcastically. They carried on waking around the aquarium, stopping to look at seals and octopi and occasionally, so that Phil could take some more (not so subtle) photos of Dan.

At some point Phil had ran ahead. He’d said he’d seen a sign for sea horses and that he wanted to go see them. Dan was fine with this, of course, but it was just that he’d seemingly lost him now. He saw various people around him taking pictures together and walking together in big groups and here he was on his own.

What was he supposed to do? Phil had disappeared and he was alone, he almost considered going back to the entrance and asking someone to make an announcement when he felt something. He felt something grab him by his shirt and pull him backwards into a room, he caught a quick glance of the door and saw that it had a 'staff only’ sign on it. He turned around slightly unwillingly only to see Phil stood there still holding on to his shirt.
'Phil! W, wh, what?! You left!’
'Oops, I suppose a got a little distracted’
'Ya think?’ Dan said slightly puzzled.
He looked around the room and saw that it wasn’t really a room at all, it was a tiny supply closet full of mops and tank cleaning equipment. Dan was about to question Phil when he spoke.
'Thought it was a little crowded out there, you know? I know you don’t like crowded places’
Dan stared up at Phil, he could see his bright blue eyes glistening in the dim light, they looked deep and enchanting almost like the ocean itself and Dan almost swore he could see something swimming in them. Before he had a chance to speak Phil spoke again, leaning in closer as he did so.
'But here’s the real reason I brought you in here’
Phil leaned closer still until he met Dan’s lips with his own, eyes closing as he did.
'You sap’ Dan breathed against Phil’s mouth before gasping and seemingly sinking into Phil like he was sinking into the sea, wrapping his arms around him and trailing his fingers through his hair, Phil returning the gesture.
'What if we get caught?’ Dan spoke again.
'We won’t’ Phil whispered.
They carried on until eventually pulling away, smiling up at each other for a second.
'You wanna go see some more fish?’ Phil asked.
Dan didn’t reply, instead he leaned against Phil pressing his head against Phil’s chest like he had that morning.
'Thank you Phil’ he smiled 'this has officially been the best day ever’
They both stood there in silence for a moment.
'I think you mean ofFISHially’ Phil smirked and both boys burst out laughing.

Meet Lucy, a 3.2 million-year-old ancestor of ours. Though she looks like an ape, her knees were close together, just like a human’s! That positioned her feet directly under her body and made walking easier. 

See the final installment of Your Inner Fish tomorrow night (4/23) on PBS at 10/9c.


Finding Tiktaalik: Neil Shubin on the Evolutionary Step from Sea to Land


“I have sometimes thought that a woman’s nature is like a great house full of rooms: there is the hall, through which everyone passes in going in and out; the drawing-room, where one receives formal visits; the sitting-room, where the members of the family come and go as they list; but beyond that, far beyond, are other rooms, the handles of whose doors perhaps are never turned; no one knows the way to them, no one knows whither they lead; and in the innermost room, the holy of holies, the soul sits alone and waits for a footstep that never comes.” 

Edith Wharton, “Fullness of Life”

anonymous asked:

what animal documentaries would you rec?

HmmmmMMMMmm, this is a good question, and a hard one! I love documentaries, especially animal ones, so it’ll be tough to narrow it down to just a few. But here are some good ones.

First, the classics- if you want to see gorgeous imagery of animals doing animal things in the wild, here are my picks: 

1. Planet Earth: This is, basically, the top-tier nature documentary, which takes an overarching look at the flora and fauna in different biomes such as forest, grasslands, freshwater, et cetera around the world. Beautiful cinematorgraphy, wonderful narration, stirring music. The epitome of nature porn.

2. Blue Planet: In the same vein as Planet Earth (and by the same people), this documentary uses stunning cinematography of sea creatures coupled by Attenbourough narration. 

3. The Hunt: I haven’t finished watching the episodes of this documentary, which I think is still airing on BBC, but what I have seen is still amazing. My only quibble is that for a series where the very subject is predation, it sometimes sanitizes the gorey truth of nature. On the other hand, the reality of what an African wild dog kill looks like probably wouldn’t be allowed on daytime TV.

4. Africa: I am so skeeved at how hard it’s been for me to find and watch all the episodes of this wonderful nature doc. Like the others on this list, it’s got all the goods: visuals, David Attenborough, the works. And a lizard jumping around on a sleeping lion.

As good as nature porn type docs are, they tend to favor imagery over deep thought. Here are some docs that will seriously teach you something:

1. The Life of… series: Life of Birds, Life of Mammals, Life in Cold Blood. Each series will teach you all about the evolution, lifestyles, challenges, and behaviors of its subject group of animals. And despite the fact that you’ll be learning, the visuals ain’t half bad either.

2. Your Inner Fish: This series on vertebrate evolution, from fish to mammals, is an excellent primer on all the fundamental changes that took place in the transition between early fish and late primate.

Some good ethical/conservation-based docs:

1. Virunga: The trouble with conservation-themed documentaries is that they often have the emotional subtlety of a brick to the privates. Virunga doesn’t escape this completely, but it does put away the sappy monologue about the beauty of nature long enough to discuss the difficulties of running a nature preserve in an area rocked by human conflict. The scars left by colonialism on the Congo have yet to heal, and are reopened when British oil companies push to drill for oil on the last refuge of wild mountain gorillas. The images of the gorillas, particularly the orphan ones cared for by a devoted Congolese caretaker, are stirring, but more stunning to me was the utter racism and corruption revealed by an undercover journalist interviewing members of the oil company Soco.

2. The Elephant in the Living Room: It’s hard to film any subject where disagreements are bitter with neutrality, and this documentary doesn’t achieve that- it clearly wants us to believe that there are serious problems with the way the keeping of wild animals as pets is legislated. But unlike many similar documentaries, we do get a sympathetic look into the life of the owner of some such pets, in this case a small pride of African lions, and feel his genuine love for the animals. We also come to understand the plight of the exotic animals that slip between the cracks, as bulging-at-the-seams sanctuaries struggle to take them in. At times this doc exaggerates the danger posed by many of these species, but it can’t emphasize enough the sometimes fatal damage to the animals themselves.

3. Earth: A New Wild: Overly optimistic? Perhaps. But I loved this recent documentary, which rather than focusing completely on conservation failures tried to couple them with new hope for a world where humans learn to work with, rather than around, nature. Not all the ideas presented in the doc are really all that feasible- but at least we’re getting some!

A couple off-kilter docs, ones with weird premises and/or editing that I still love:

1. Microcosmos: This mostly narration-free documentary focuses in on tiny invertebrates doing tiny invertebrate things: diving spiders diving, snails having snail sex, ants panicking at the attack of a monstrously gigantic chicken. Some shots were clearly manipulated, but for the most part I was riveted and entirely sucked into the alien little worlds that lie beneath our feet.

2. Hidden Kingdoms: Hoo boy, speaking of shots being manipulated, here we have a doc that consists of almost entirely fabricated scenes, actors, and narration. Mind you, no humans appear on film: the actors are animals, both captive and wild, that are manipulated one way or another. To my knowledge, none of it was done in a terribly unethical way, and the doc itself is up-front about its own fakery. So why is this on the list? The fact is, there are shots in this doc (particularly the first episode, which outshines the other two by a lot) that couldn’t have been captured any other way. Without a premade sengi racetrack with a camera installed to zoom alongside, there would have been no way to capture, in exquisite hi-def slow motion, the exquisite slow motion shots of the sengi galloping along. And they are exquisite. Likewise, the shot of a grasshopper mouse leaping to escape the strike of a rattlesnake made me gasp, even though the actors were never in the same room. This doc can get a little silly, and the narration is as fake as the scenes themselves. But wow, some of the stuff captured here is just worth seeing.

Ok, that’s a short list off the top of my head (no, really!), so hopefully there are some you haven’t seen on here. People, feel free to reblog and add to this!

When you look into eyes, forget about romance, creation, and the windows into the soul. With their molecules, genes, and tissues derived from microbes, jellyfish, worms, and flies, you see an entire menagerie.
—  Neil Shubin, Your Inner Fish

Awesome reads for the casual geek monkey!

These are the types of books Cosima might give to one of her sisters (or her brother!) if they expressed an interest in a particular topic. I’ve picked out a few I’ve read in the last few years to make up this list!

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson: A 500 page ‘cliff notes’ of all the sciency things humans have been getting up to. It covers everything from evolution to particle physics and does so in a highly entertaining way. 

Why Evolution is True by Jerry A. Coyne: A good look at the modern supporting evidence for evolution. 

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking: Yoouuu’ve probably heard about this one! For me it was a huge mental stretcher (I have to say I did not come away from this book with a complete understanding of what he was saying). It left me in complete awe that a human mind could sit down and work this shit out. 

Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin: Another evolutionary book with a focus on human evolution and where some of our fancy physical features come from based on fossil record findings etc. 

The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean: The periodic table, a history. Looks at the elements and the people surrounding their discoveries. Very interesting!

Stiff: The curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach: Could not make this list without a Mary roach title. She writes the best non fiction books. Try her books. TRRRYY THEM! Don’t like morbid? Maybe try Packing for Mars. Where was I? Oh right Stiff! This book basically looks at what 'jobs’ a body can get once it’s passed on. Humorous and fascinating. 


Available on Netflix: Your Inner Fish

While I sometimes wish that it spent more time talking about the science than the host’s personal journey, Your Inner Fish is a really fascinating look at the structures in our body that connect us with all other living things.

I’ve only watched the first episode so far, and it is important to note that it shows the dissection of a human cadaver and manipulation of chick embryos, so if that makes you uncomfortable you might not want to watch it.


Meet Ardi, a 4.4 million-year-old fossil that sheds light on our transition to walking on two legs. Host Neil Shubin joins Tim White and Owen Lovejoy to understand our transition to bipedalism.

YOUR INNER FISH continues Wednesday, April 16 & 23 at 10/9c on PBS.

Each galaxy, star, or person is the temporary owner of particles that have passed through the births and deaths of entities across vast reaches of time and space. The particles that make us have traveled billions of years across the universe; long after we and our planet are gone, they will be a part of other worlds.
—  Neil Shubin, Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body

Check out this 3D model of Ichthyostega, created using the latest scanning techniques.

Ichthyostega’s forelimbs could push the top half of its body off the ground. Its back end has paddle-like hind limbs that are useful for swimming, but can also act as stabilizers on land to keep it from falling over.

Learn more on PBS, April 9th at 10/9c, with the premiere of YOUR INNER FISH.

I love scientists

I’m reading a book about evolution and development of species and omg scientists are great

These scientists discovered this gene in fruit flies and named it hedgehog because the flies with a mutation of this gene were spiky and reminded them of a hedgehog.

So the scientists who found the same gene in a chicken named it Sonic Hedgehog.



Scientists are dorks and I love them omg

The book is Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin, btw, and I definitely would recommend it to anyone.