The Story of Life

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Oxford University Press, 2003 - Nature - 264 pages
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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.
  

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Contents

Introduction
1
Pre and Early Archaean 45503500 Mya
7
Middle and Late Archaean 35002500 Mya
14
Proterozoic 2500600 Mya
25
Late Proterozoic 700545 Mya
36
CambrianOrdovician 545438 Mya
43
SilurianDevonian 438362 Mya
65
CarboniferousPermian 362248 Mya
89
JurassicCretaceous 20665 Mya
136
TertiaryQuaternary 65 MyaToday
176
20 Mya30000 Years Ago
213
The Great Modifiers 40000 Years Ago Today and Tomorrow
233
Further Reading
257
Figure Acknowledgements
259
Index
261
Copyright

Triassic 248206 Mya
118

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About the author (2003)

Professor Sir Richard Southwood FRS, was head of both Imperial College and Oxford Zoology Departments, Vice-Chancellor of Oxford, holder of thirteen honorary degrees and, above all, a life-long natural historian with an enduring curiosity about the lives of the other inhabitants of Earth. As well as writing and researching, he played a major role in public policy related to the environment.

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