For STEM Friday, let’s delve into a new middle grade book,  Living Fossils: Survivors from Earth’s Distant Past by Rebecca E. Hirsch.

In Living Fossils, Rebecca Hirsch has scoured the earth for animals that not only look like their fossil ancestors, but also are the last few species of their kind. She has put together a fascinating collection of six amazing animals.

I knew that Living Fossils would be one of my new favorite books when I flipped the pages to the introduction and spotted a velvet worm. Every entomologist knows about velvet worms (Phylum Onychophora) because they have characteristics of both arthropods (the phylum containing insects) and annelids (earthworms, etc.). However, you don’t often see these unusual critters mentioned in children’s books.

Chapter 2 reveals the both heartbreaking and hopeful story of the horseshoe crab, which up to recently has been the only source of a chemical with important value to the medical field.

The next chapter features the chambered nautilus (also shown on the cover). Have you ever seen one of these cool mollusks at an aquarium? If not, I’ve dug up a video for you.

The nautilus is a cephalopod, and like their octopus cousins, are intelligent enough to learn how to negotiate a maze.


Public domain illustration

Chapter 6 discusses another of my most-liked creatures, the platypus. It took forever for scientists to figure out where to categorize these animals that look like a bird/mammal mash up. Hirsch writes about how the decision was made.

I’m not going to reveal the next animal she picked, but it was one I — a biologist — had never heard of before. What a survivor it is, one that has managed to stay hidden from humans for decades.

All in all, this book is a tribute to the incredible diversity of animals on our planet, as well as a clear call that we need to conserve them.

Living Fossils will entrance budding biologists. Educators will appreciate the deep, careful research and extensive back matter. You will want to investigate a copy today!

Related STEM Activity Suggestions:

Grade Level : 3 – 8
Publisher : Millbrook Press ™ (October 6, 2020)
ISBN-10 : 154158127X
ISBN-13 : 978-1541581272

Disclosure: I won this book in a giveaway contest. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books. Note: this is a new link as of 10/2018.