Life: A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years of Life on Earth

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By one of Britain's most gifted scientists: a magnificently daring and compulsively readable account of life on Earth (from the "big bang" to the advent of man), based entirely on the most original of all sources--the evidence of fossils.
With excitement and driving intelligence, Richard Fortey guides us from the barren globe spinning in space, through the very earliest signs of life in the sulphurous hot springs and volcanic vents of the young planet, the appearance of cells, the slow creation of an atmosphere and the evolution of myriad forms of plants and animals that could then be sustained, including the magnificent era of the dinosaurs, and on to the last moment before the debut of Homo sapiens.
Ranging across multiple scientific disciplines, explicating in wonderfully clear and refreshing prose their findings and arguments--about the origins of life, the causes of species extinctions and the first appearance of man--Fortey weaves this history out of the most delicate traceries left in rock, stone and earth. He also explains how, on each aspect of nature and life, scientists have reached the understanding we have today, who made the key discoveries, who their opponents were and why certain ideas won.
Brimful of wit, fascinating personal experience and high scholarship, this book may well be our best introduction yet to the complex history of life on Earth.


A Book-of-the-Month Club Main Selection   With 32 pages of photographs


From the Hardcover edition.
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About the author

Richard Fortey is a senior palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum in London. He is the author of several books, including Fossils: A Key to the Past and The Hidden Landscape, which was named the Natural World Book of the Year in 1993. In 1997 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Vintage
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Published on
Mar 23, 2011
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Pages
400
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ISBN
9780307761187
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Language
English
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Genres
Science / Life Sciences / Evolution
Science / Natural History
Science / Paleontology
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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From one of the world’s leading natural scientists and the acclaimed author of Trilobite!, Life: A Natural History of Four Billion Years of Life on Earth and Dry Storeroom No. 1 comes a fascinating chronicle of life’s history told not through the fossil record but through the stories of organisms that have survived, almost unchanged, throughout time. Evolution, it seems, has not completely obliterated its tracks as more advanced organisms have evolved; the history of life on earth is far older—and odder—than many of us realize.
 
Scattered across the globe, these remarkable plants and animals continue to mark seminal events in geological time. From a moonlit beach in Delaware, where the hardy horseshoe crab shuffles its way to a frenzy of mass mating just as it did 450 million years ago, to the dense rainforests of New Zealand, where the elusive, unprepossessing velvet worm has burrowed deep into rotting timber since before the breakup of the ancient supercontinent, to a stretch of Australian coastline with stromatolite formations that bear witness to the Precambrian dawn, the existence of these survivors offers us a tantalizing glimpse of pivotal points in evolutionary history. These are not “living fossils” but rather a handful of tenacious creatures of days long gone.
 
Written in buoyant, sparkling prose, Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms is a marvelously captivating exploration of the world’s old-timers combining the very best of science writing with an explorer’s sense of adventure and wonder.
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