Cradle of Life: The Discovery of Earth's Earliest Fossils
One of the greatest mysteries in reconstructing the history of life on Earth has been the apparent absence of fossils dating back more than 550 million years. We have long known that fossils of sophisticated marine life-forms existed at the dawn of the Cambrian Period, but until recently scientists had found no traces of Precambrian fossils. The quest to find such traces began in earnest in the mid-1960s and culminated in one dramatic moment in 1993 when William Schopf identified fossilized microorganisms three and a half billion years old. This startling find opened up a vast period of time--some eighty-five percent of Earth's history--to new research and new ideas about life's beginnings. In this book, William Schopf, a pioneer of modern paleobiology, tells for the first time the exciting and fascinating story of the origins and earliest evolution of life and how that story has been unearthed.
Gracefully blending his personal story of discovery with the basics needed to understand the astonishing science he describes, Schopf has produced an introduction to paleobiology for the interested reader as well as a primer for beginning students in the field. He considers such questions as how did primitive bacteria, pond scum, evolve into the complex life-forms found at the beginning of the Cambrian Period? How do scientists identify ancient microbes and what do these tiny creatures tell us about the environment of the early Earth? (And, in a related chapter, Schopf discusses his role in the controversy that swirls around recent claims of fossils in the famed meteorite from Mars.) Like all great teachers, Schopf teaches the non-specialist enough about his subject along the way that we can easily follow his descriptions of the geology, biology, and chemistry behind these discoveries. Anyone interested in the intriguing questions of the origins of life on Earth and how those origins have been discovered will find this story the best place to start.
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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - JNSelko - LibraryThing
An in-depth and exhaustive study of the earliest life on earth. It is amazing that life began so soon after the earth cooled, and also amazing how hard it is to tell early life from natural geological processes (think Martian Meteorite). Read full review
Cradle of life: the discovery of earth's earliest fossilsUser Review - Not Available - Book Verdict
Schopf, the world's leading expert on Precambrian fossils (0.5 to 4.5 billion years old), has written an exceptional description of the field that is accessible to any educated lay reader. As a ... Read full review
The Nature of Geologic Time
The Schoolbook History of Life
Birth of a New Field of Science
Famous Figures Enter the Field
A Youngster Joins the Fray
Earths First HighRise Condos
Stromatolites of the Geologic Past
What Are Stromatolites Good For?
Cyanobacteria Earths Oldest Living Fossils
The Status Quo Evolution of Cyanobacteria
Evolutions Most Successful Ecologic Generalists
Cells Like Ours Arise at Last
Keys to Eukaryotic Success
The Floodgates Open Full Bore
The Oldest Fossils and What They Mean
Questions and Answers about the Oldest Records of Life
The Oldest Fossils Known
How Did Life Begin?
The Universals of Life
How Did Mononers of CHON Arise on the Lifeless Earth?
Organic Monomers beyond the Earth
How Did Monomers Become Linked into Polymers?
From Monomers to Polymers toward Life
Metabolic Memories of the Earliest Cells
The Essentials of Life
Lifes Earliest Way to Make a Living
A New Source of Glucose
Why Do We Breathe Oxygen?
The FourStage Development of Modern Metabolism
So Far So Fast So Early?
When Did Life Begin?
How Did Evolution Proceed So Far So Fast So Early?
Fossils Geology and Geochemistry
Isotopic Evidence of Ancient Metabolisms
Direct Evidence of Early Evolution
Stromatolites Earths First HighRise Condos
How Old Are the Eukaryotes?
Eukaryotes Perfect the Art of Cloning
A New Lifestyle Brings Major Change
The Wax and Wane of Precambrian Acritarchs
Prelude to the Phanerozoic
Solution to Darwins Dilemma
EXTRAORDINARY CLAIMS EXTRAORDINARY EVIDENCE?
Fossils Foibles and Frauds
Man a Witness of the Deluge
Beringers Lying Stones
Theories on the Nature of Fossils
Unearthing a Rosetta Stone
The Hunt for Life on Mars
NASA Stages a Press Conference
Meteorites from Mars
Search for the Smoking Gun
Lessons from the Hunt