Arkansas Author: Peter Ungar
Occupation: Distinguished Professor and Department Chairman at the University of Arkansas
Title of Book: Mammal Teeth: Origin, Evolution, and Diversity
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Target audience: Academics and lay persons interested in nature and paleontology
Tell us about your book, what’s it about? The mammals are wildly successful, from the tiny bumble bee bat at less than two grams to the gargantuan blue whale at nearly two tons. Species in our biological class burrow, crawl, walk, run, hop, climb, swing, and fly through a fantastic variety of habitats. They range from rainforest to desert, from deep ocean waters to high-altitude mountain tops, and from Arctic tundra to Antarctic pack ice. What accounts for this incredible ecological diversity and success? Our ability to fuel a high-energy, warm-blooded body. And this is made possible by our teeth. This book is the story of the evolutionary success of the mammals as told by their (our) teeth. It begins with the earliest teeth of half a billion years ago, takes us through to the early mammals, including many strange and wondrous species of the past, and ends with a survey of those living today.
What inspires you to write? I am inspired to write by my own quest for understanding. Science writing forces you to read, think, and understand a little bit more about the world around you. It is a creative act, and one that makes you a more responsible academic. Also, sharing is good.
Any other thoughts or information you want to share? Douglas Adams is quoted to have said, “writing is easy. You only need to stare at a blank piece of paper until your forehead bleeds”. Blood, sweat, and tears.
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