The Story of Life
Oxford University Press
, 2003 - Nature
- 264 pages
In this attractively illustrated volume, eminent biologist Sir Richard Southwood offers a remarkable survey of life in all its forms, ranging from the earliest single-celled bacteria, to the evolution and extinction of animals such as the dinosaurs, to the variety of life today.
The book follows the major geological periods--such as the Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, and Devonian--explaining how great planetary changes such as the movement of the continents, the rising and falling of sea level, and the periods of glaciation, affected the forms of life on Earth. Beginning with the earliest and simplest forms of life, Southwood discusses such amazing creatures as bacteria that live around geysers and thermal vents and can survive in boiling water. He explains how the development of skeletons triggered the Cambrian Explosion, when animals such as trilobites, sea scorpions, shellfish, cephalopods first spread around the earth. He also examines such landmarks of evolution as the appearance of eggs in shells and of insects in flight. We read about the great dinosaurs and the arrival of the mammals and the primates, and the great extinctions, including the Permian (the largest in fossil history, wiping out 95% of animals) and the Cretaceous/Tertiary (K/T) extinction (the one that wiped out the dinosaurs). Southwood concludes by examining the impact of humanity on Earth, considering if we ourselves might not unleash the next major extinction.
Southwood's love for his subject, for the life he describes so vividly, shines through this carefully crafted story. Generously illustrated with line drawings showing the fauna and flora of the Earth, both past and present, The Story of Life will enthrall anyone interested in nature and natural history.