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‘Spying on Whales’ dives into the story of true leviathans

A new book journeys through cetaceans’ past, present and future

12:00pm, June 29, 2018
baleen whale

SEA GIANTS  Some species of baleen whales, a group that includes southern right whales, are among the largest creatures that ever lived. Spying on Whales explores how the animals got so big and other aspects of cetacean evolution.

Spying on Whales
Nick Pyenson
Viking, $27

Just before humans evolved, whales and dolphins were, pound for pound, the brainiest creatures on Earth. Another cetacean superlative: Today’s biggest whales are heftier than the largest dinosaurs that ever lived. The evolutionary trends that produced big, brainy marine animals are just a few of the fascinating tales told in Spying on Whales.

Paleontologist Nick Pyenson studies whale fossils, but he’s also been known to cut up a few modern-day carcasses. As laid out in his new science-book-cum-midcareer-memoir, the anatomical info gained from both endeavors provides strong evidence for evolution in action. That process has transformed cetaceans’ dog-sized, four-legged ancestors, which

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