(K. Brent Tomer),
The Evolution Underground: Burrows, Bunkers, and the Marvellous Subterranean World Beneath Our Feet. By Anthony Martin. Pegasus; 405 pages; $28.95. To be published in Britain by W.W. Norton in March; £22.99.
IN THE card game of survival, the pocket gopher has been dealt a royal flush. When Mount St Helens erupted in 1980 and vaporised 600 square kilometres (230 square miles) of the Cascade mountains in Washington state, the small mammal hunkered down in its burrow, and—unlike elk, mountain goats and coyotes, which perished in their thousands—emerged from the conflagration intact. It relied on a tactic first exploited 545m years ago by trilobites and marine worms: duck and cover.
In “The Evolution Underground” Anthony Martin of Emory University digs into the subterranean strategies of prehistoric and contemporary animals, from insects to giant sloths and, to a lesser extent, humans. Mr Martin is a geologist, paleontologist and, notably, an ichnologist—a scientist who studies animal traces such as burrows, tracks and trails. They offer subtle…Continue reading