An awe-inspiring journey through the eons and across the globe, in search of visible traces of evolution in the living creatures which have survived from earlier times and whose stories speak to us of seminal events in the history of life.
The history of life on Earth is far older – and far odder – than many of us realise. In ‘Survivors’, acclaimed author Richard Fortey traces this history not through fossil records, but in the living stories of organisms that have survived nearly unchanged for hundreds of millions of years and whose existence today affords us tantalising glimpses of landscapes long vanished.
For evolution has not obliterated its tracks. Scattered across the globe, strange and marvellous plants and animals have survived virtually unchanged since life first began. They range from humble algal mats dating back almost two billion years to hardy musk oxen, which linger as the last vestiges of Ice Age fauna.
Following in Fortey’s questing footsteps, ‘Survivors’ takes us on a fascinating journey to these ancient worlds. On a moonlit beach in Delaware where the horseshoe crab shuffles its way through a violent romance, we catch a glimpse of life 450 million years ago, shortly after it diversified on the ocean floor. Along a stretch of Australian coastline, we bear witness to the sights and sounds that would have greeted a Precambrian dawn. Finally, in the dense rainforests of New Zealand where the secretive velvet worm burrows into the rotting timber of the jungle floor, we marvel at a living fossil which has survived unchanged since before the dissolution of the Gondwana supercontinent.
Written with Fortey’s customary sparkle and gusto, this wonderfully engrossing exploration of the world’s oldest flora and fauna brilliantly combines the best science writing about the origins of life with an explorer’s sense of adventure and a poet’s wonder at the natural world. Utterly compelling, eye-opening and awe-inspiring, this is a book for anyone with an interest in evolution, in nature, in the remarkable scope of geological time and our own modest interaction with it – in short, in life itself.
Richard Fortey retired from his position as senior palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum in 2006. He is the author of several books, including ‘Fossils: A Key to the Past’, ‘The Hidden Landscape’ which won The Natural World Book of the Year in 1993, ‘Life: An Unauthorised Biography’, ‘Trilobite!’ and ‘The Earth: An Intimate History’. He was elected President of the Geological Society of London for its bicentennial year of 2007, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society.
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Sixty-six million years ago, an object the size of a city descended from space to crash into Earth, creating a devastating cataclysm that killed off the dinosaurs, along with three-quarters of the other species on the planet. What was its origin? In Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs, Lisa Randall proposes it was a comet that was dislodged from its orbit as the Solar System passed through a disk of dark matter embedded in the Milky Way. In a sense, it might have been dark matter that killed the dinosaurs.
Working through the background and consequences of this proposal, Randall shares with us the latest findings—established and speculative—regarding the nature and role of dark matter and the origin of the Universe, our galaxy, our Solar System, and life, along with the process by which scientists explore new concepts. In Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs, Randall tells a breathtaking story that weaves together the cosmos’ history and our own, illuminating the deep relationships that are critical to our world and the astonishing beauty inherent in the most familiar things.
'I travelled to Haverfordwest to get to the past. From Paddington Station a Great Western locomotive took me on a journey westwards from London further and further back into geological time, from the age of mammals to the age of trilobites...'
So begins this enthralling exploration of time and place in which Richard Fortey peels away the top layer of the land to reveal the hidden landscape - the rocks which contain the story of distant events, which dictate not only the personality of the landscape, but the nature of the soil, the plants that grow in it and the regional characteristics of the buildings. We travel with him as our guide throughout the British Isles and as the rocks change so we learn to read the clues they contain: that Britain was once divided into two parts separated by an ocean, that Scottish malt whisky, Harris tweed, slate roofs and thatched cottages can be traced back to tumultuous events which took place many millions of years ago. The Hidden Landscape has become a classic in popular geology since its first publication in 1993. This new edition is fully updated and beautifully illustrated.