We cant catechise our stony ichthyolites, as did the necromantic lady of the Arabian Nights did the coloured fishes of the lake which had once been a city, when she touched their dead bodies with her wand, and they straightaway raised their heads and rephed to her queries. We would have many a question to ask them if we could - questions never to be solved. Hugh Miller, The Old Red Sandstone When I started this book in 1991, the subject of vertebrate origins was fusty and unfashionable. Early drafts for this preface read like an extend- ed complaint at the lot of traditional morphologists, cast aside by the march of modern molecular biology. But longer - this book should reach you at a time of renewed inter- est in the origin of the vertebrates, our own particular corner of creation. For although the topic has excited interest for well over a century, molec- ular biology has only lately achieved the maturity necessary to test its predictions. As a legitimate field of study, it is fashionable again.