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This is a beautifully illustrated history of the evolution of fish, starting with the first primitive forms some five million years ago, and ending with the beginnings of modern fish (and pointing towards amphibians). Professor Long has a breadth of knowledge and writes with enthusiasm. For the most part, he deals with specific fish groups as they arise in time, and discusses their natures in terms of food, environment and improvements on the general “fish” model.

Some early forms of fishes, for example, had quite elaborate body armor covering their heads and fins. Professor Long shows how later species, lacking this heavy layer of bone, were faster and more manoeverable and thus better able to adapt and prosper.

Throughout, the photographs of fossils and illustrations reconstructing how these fishes may have looked in life, are stunningly beautiful. The reproduction is first rate. Even if you never read a word, this is the sort of thing to leave lying on coffee tables. A guaranteed page-flipper.

If I were to make any sort of a complaint, it would be in that “Even if you never read a word” area. I read every word and thoroughly enjoyed the ride. Professor Long clearly has the knowledge and drive to write this work, but the knowledge of species' Latin names and body parts and such are (I'm guessing) so well known by him that their usage is second nature. This is understandable, in that when these fish flourished, there were no people around to give them “common” names. And that's not really my complaint. No, what bothered me on a few occasions was Professor Long's use of the “non-common” word when referring to something that has a much more common (hence approachable) name.

In the main, these are pretty few and far between, but present enough so that I noticed them. One example occurs on page 122, when Professor Long writes that a fossil “...provides strong evidence that the Chinese and Australian terranes came into close proximity...” What's wrong with the simpler “land masses,” instead of “terranes”? (Ed's note: Perhaps that's how Australians spell “terrains”? Obviously, I figured it out, but it did bring me up short at the time.)

Of course, for anyone picking up a scientific study on the evolution of fish, this is going to be not only minor, but probably expected. It certainly didn't impede my enjoyment of this handsome book. Recommended for any of you fish fans out there, and for anyone with an eye for beauty.