An exploration of the key aspects of life on Earth – now and in the future – through the study of 10 and a half species.
If an alien visitor were to collect ten souvenir life forms to represent life on earth, which would they be? This is the thought-provoking premise of Marianne Taylor's The Story of Life in 10½ Chapters. Each life form explains a key aspect about life on Earth. From the sponge that seems to be a plant but is really an animal to the almost extinct soft-shelled turtle deemed extremely unique and therefore extremely precious, these examples reveal how life itself is arranged across time and space, and how humanity increasingly dominates that vision.
Taylor, a prolific science writer, considers the chemistry of a green plant and ponders the possibility of life beyond our world. She investigates the virus in an attempt to determine what a life form is; and wonders if the human – 'a distinct and very dominant species with an inevitably biased view of life' – could evolve in a new direction. She tells us that the giraffe was one species, but is now four; that the dusky seaside sparrow may be revived through 're-evolution', or cloning; explains the significance of Darwin's finch to evolution; and much more. The 'half' species is artificial intelligence. Itself an experiment to understand and model life, AI is central to our future – although from the alien visitor's standpoint, unlikely to inherit the earth in the long run.
Marianne Taylor has authored over 25 books on natural history including The Way of the Hare and Dragonflight. She has recently completed Bats: An Illustrated Guide to All Species and has written a number of guides for the RSPB. Her interest in taxonomy and classification goes back to her childhood, when she made a point of learning scientific as well as English names for the wildlife she saw and aspired to see. She has since become fascinated by the science that is changing the way we understand the family ties of all life on Earth.
"Outstanding work [...] Taylor's writing is concise and accessible to a wide audience, while the book's vibrant, attractive layout, filled with beautiful illustrations, adds luster to the text. This rich survey of the long evolution of life on Earth will keep readers focused and fascinated"
– Publishers Weekly