Life on a Young Planet: The First Three Billion Years of Evolution on Earth

Front Cover
Princeton University Press, 2003 - Science - 277 pages
4 Reviews

Australopithecines, dinosaurs, trilobites--such fossils conjure up images of lost worlds filled with vanished organisms. But in the full history of life, ancient animals, even the trilobites, form only the half-billion-year tip of a nearly four-billion-year iceberg. Andrew Knoll explores the deep history of life from its origins on a young planet to the incredible Cambrian explosion, presenting a compelling new explanation for the emergence of biological novelty.

The very latest discoveries in paleontology--many of them made by the author and his students--are integrated with emerging insights from molecular biology and earth system science to forge a broad understanding of how the biological diversity that surrounds us came to be. Moving from Siberia to Namibia to the Bahamas, Knoll shows how life and environment have evolved together through Earth's history. Innovations in biology have helped shape our air and oceans, and, just as surely, environmental change has influenced the course of evolution, repeatedly closing off opportunities for some species while opening avenues for others.

Readers go into the field to confront fossils, enter the lab to discern the inner workings of cells, and alight on Mars to ask how our terrestrial experience can guide exploration for life beyond our planet. Along the way, Knoll brings us up-to-date on some of science's hottest questions, from the oldest fossils and claims of life beyond the Earth to the hypothesis of global glaciation and Knoll's own unifying concept of ''permissive ecology.''

In laying bare Earth's deepest biological roots, Life on a Young Planet helps us understand our own place in the universe--and our responsibility as stewards of a world four billion years in the making.

  

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Review: Life on a Young Planet: The First Three Billion Years of Evolution on Earth

User Review  - Jimagn - Goodreads

Very well researched and presented. Covers a time period with which most are not familiar. The author presents the research as a good scientist, with a healthy dose of skepticism, while basing ... Read full review

Review: Life on a Young Planet: The First Three Billion Years of Evolution on Earth

User Review  - Tracy Black - Goodreads

Excellent book! Even though it's fairly technical, it is so well written that it seemed lighter than it was. I had no idea how much was actually known about Pre-Cambrian life. Knoll is a top-notch author and I'll be watching future books. Read full review

Contents

In the Beginning?
6
The Tree of Life
16
Lifes Signature in Ancient Rocks
32
The Earliest Glimmers of Life
50
The Emergence of Life
72
The Oxygen Revolution
89
The Cyanobacteria Lifes Microbial Heroes
108
The Origins of Eukaryotic Cells
122
Animals Take the Stage
161
Cambrian Redux
179
Dynamic Earth Permissive Ecology
206
Paleontology ad Astra
225
Epilogue
243
Further Reading
247
Index
269
Copyright

Fossils of Early Eukaryotes
139

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Page 1 - Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself, In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time, Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.

References to this book

Evolution
Nicholas H. Barton
Limited preview - 2007
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About the author (2003)

Andrew H. Knoll is Fisher Professor of Natural History at Harvard University and a Member of the National Academy of Sciences. A paleontologist by training, he has spent more than two decades working to integrate geological and biological perspectives on early life.

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