I was sitting at my computer this morning wondering if I would suddenly be inspired with a topic to write about or whether I would resort to my default setting of abject sloth. Then inspiration did strike, in a way, my copy of “Evolution – The Story of Life” arrived by courier. Written by Douglas Palmer and illustrated by Peter Barrett this is a fantastic large format hardcover book that takes you on a trip through the history of life on planet Earth. From the appearance of single celled organisms, through the proliferation of forms during the Cambrian period and finishing up with the life we see around us today.
Beginning with introductory information explaining what evolution is as well as briefly covering the history of the theory, the time scales involved, taxonomy, fossils and how it all comes together this book will be accessible reading for anyone.
The book is beautifully illustrated throughout, touching upon each major stepping stone from the beginning to the present day. Every turn of the page brings a new vista with examples of flora and fauna typical of each age and location depicted. Below the impressive artwork is a brief description of the area and life shown as well as an information box showing a representation of the distribution of the continents at the time compared with how the particular location is situated today. Rounding out the informative package are photographs of actual fossils from the period.
I was particularly taken with the Cladograms that show how the species of animals are related. The major levels of the tree of life each have their own cladograms; Metazoa, Tetrapoda, Mammalia and certainly not forgetting Primates. These fantastic illustrations provide a great overview of the interrelatedness of species and are a fascinating read.
Finally the book ends with a “Species listing”, an A-Z of the species depicted in the book featuring pictures of plants, animals and fossils. Each entry gives the time period the life form lived, it’s place within the tree of life, a brief description and the reference to were it can be found in the earlier pages of the book.
At the back of the book can be found a condensed timeline of the geological and evolutionary history of our planet. In addition all of the artwork in the book is reproduced side by side to show a continuous panoramic view of the story of life.