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Book Review: Penguins: The Ultimate Guide

Reviewed by Ephraim Nissan (London, England)

De Roy, T., M. Jones, and J. Cornthwaite, eds. 2022. Penguins: The Ultimate Guide. Second edition. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 240 pp. ($28.00 cloth, $19.60 e-book with 20% PS discount.)

This lavishly illustrated, large-format book provides a full-rounded treatment of all extant penguin species, but it also is an eye-opener on fossil and subfossil penguin species. Part 1 is by Tui de Roy, and covers their life cycle, the “jackass” group of braying penguins, Antarctica’s three long-tailed species (the Adélie, chinstrap, and Gentoo penguins), the crested penguins, the rockhoppers, the Little penguin of Oceania, and finally the King and Emperor penguins of Antarctica.

Julie Cornthwaite authored Part 3, surveying all species one by one, in profiles sharing their structure. Part 2 instead, “Science and Conservation”, is edited by Mark Jones, and comprises 17 chapters (all but the first, of just two pages) by different scholars. For example, “March of the Fossil Penguins” by Daniel Ksepka (pp. 158–159), and Matthew Shawkey’s “Penguin Colours and Pigments” (pp. 162–163), which also discusses their evolution (a glitch chopped off its last line): “melanosomes from [the 36-million-year-old] Inkayacu [giant penguin found mummified (p. 159)] were smaller than those from modern penguins, and more similar in size and shape to those of other birds” (p. 162): perhaps larger melanosomes make feathers stiffer. “Second, Inkayacu’s plumage lacked countershading. Instead it had a brown underside and grey back” (162). Seals were diversifying, and countershading may have evolved as a response to increasing predation pressure.

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Book Review: Dragons’ Teeth and Thunderstones: The Quest for the Meaning of Fossils

Reviewed by Andrej Spiridonov (Vilnius University, Lithuania & Nature Research Centre, Lithuania)

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Through a glass darkly: citation rankings in paleontology

- Roy E. Plotnick, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago.

In the old days, before the advent of the internet and the personal computer, you kept up on the scientific literature by going to the library and examining the stacks of new journals that had just arrived. If you wanted to pursue an area of research and write your own paper, you searched the library stacks, guided by the list of references in the back of published papers and the huge published volumes, such as the Bibliography and Index of Geology, that catalogued the papers on the subject. You may also find out, perhaps guided by more senior scientists, that there were certain critical papers in your area that you needed to read. 

All this, of course, has changed. You can receive emails from journals announcing newly published, or about to be published papers. The development of massive online reference databases, such as Web of Science, GeoRef, and Google Scholar have made searching for papers on a topic lightning fast, with the ability to immediately download the publication and enter it into a personal bibliographic database. And most usefully, the databases have links to both the papers in the paper’s reference list and those that, in turn, cite the publication in question, with each papers number of citations being tabulated. To a first approximation, one can assume that the more citations a paper has, the more important it is to read. 

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