Many animals and plants eke out seemingly unremarkable lives. Passive, constrained, modest, threatened. Then, in a blink of evolutionary time, they flourish spectacularly. Once we start to look, these "sleeping beauties" crop up everywhere. But why? Andreas Wagner demonstrates that innovations can come frequently and cheaply to nature, well before they are needed.
Revision in response to new information is what science is all about. Sleeping Beauties fits, well, beautifully into this process, and its author is in the forefront of important additions to our grasp of how evolution proceeds ... A delightful, accessible and information-packed primer on evolutionary biology.
Where Wagner really excels is in the detail — especially when it comes to his own field ... Where the detail is more lacking is when we move beyond biology. Sleeping Beauties is, to an extent, a book-length metaphor — where biological innovations mirror those in technology and culture. The technology part is briskly covered in a final chapter — I would have loved more and, ideally, for it to be integrated throughout.
The accessible prose ensures even excursions into molecular biology are comprehensible, and Wagner finds surprising depth in evolutionary history ... This is the rare volume that general readers will enjoy as much as specialists.