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Paul Humphries

I first encountered Stephen Jay Gould when I happened on one of his books in a bookshop during my late teens. Its unusual title, The Panda’s Thumb, caught my eye. The lead article channelled Charles Darwin’s approach to understanding the natural world, not through looking at perfect adaptations to the environment but ...

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Icebergs loom large in Joy McCann’s Wild Sea: A history of the Southern Ocean. They are one of the most recognisable features of the higher latitudes of the Southern Ocean and the one that people often look forward to the most when voyaging south for the first time. Ice gets its own chapter ...

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A friend and colleague from Europe visited in October 2010 for the first time in almost a decade. I had peppered him in the intervening years with emails bemoaning the long drought, the record heat, the lack of rain, the bushfires, the water restrictions, the young and old trees dying, the rivers ceasing to flow and finally drying altogether. I had described the har ...

To earn some money as a student in the late 1980s, I did a short stint at CSIRO Marine Laboratories in Perth, identifying deep-sea fish. I spent a couple of weeks up to my armpits in pale, preserved and squashed fish, which were extremely hard to identify, partly because of their misshapen form and lack of colour, but also because many of the species were entirely new to science. Some looked like old, flattened doughnuts and clearly lived on the seabed. Others were compressed sideways and had light-emitting organs on their sides, strange plate-like structures or razor-sharp serrations along their bellies, and were clearly more adapted to a mid-water mode of existence. But without exception, these fish were drab and dead as dead can be. I can only imagine what they must have been like when alive in their natural environment.

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