Fortey has a gift for bringing profound science grippingly to life
for a general audience, and even the very best writers have
admiration for his superlative literary craft. Trilobite!
Eyewitness to Evolution is the latest book from the working
palaeontologist, and it does not disappoint. Fortey's previous book
was Life: An Unauthorized Biogrpahy, the 4,500-million-year history
of our planet and its remarkable array of living inhabitants.
Trilobite! tells a part of that story. The trilobites were animals
that looked like giant woodlice. Denizens of the sea, they first
evolved at least 540 million years ago. Trilobites were among the
earliest animals to leave evidence of their passing, as fossils.
They became extinct around 250 million years ago, during the
so-called end Permian mass-extinction - a cataclysmic extinction
that dwarfed the demise of the dinosaurs, 65 million years ago.
Most people have seen the beautiful, polished fossils of trilobites
in museums, rock shops and mantlepieces. Fortey came across them as
a tender teenager and it was love at first sight. He grew up to be
the trilobite specialist at the Natural History Museum in London:
Trilobite! tells the 300-million-year history of the lives and
times of the trilobites, and records a personal obsession. More
than any other science, palaeontology has scenery, and Fortey
describes his quest to find trilobites from the deserts of Morocco
to the glaciers of Spitzbergen. He also explains what
palaeontologists actually do. Palaeontologists are voyagers on a
ocean of time. Unlike every other commuter on the 8.02 to Waterloo,
Fortey will spend his working day exploring vistas of the deep
past, worlds as strange and remote as anything in science fiction
or poetry. In Trilobite! he invites you to share the ride. Review
by HENRY GEE (Kirkus UK)
Trilobite! is an unashamedly trilobito-centric view of the world unravelling the history of the exotic, crustacean-like animals which dominated the seas for three hundred million years. These arthropods witnessed continents move, mountain chains elevated and eroded; they survived ice ages and volcanic eruptions, evolving and adapting exquisitely to their environment. They watched through their crystal eyes whilst life evolved. Their own evolution calibrated geological time itself.
Structured like a detective story, this is a light, but highly informative account of the wonders of scientific discovery.
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