Life on Earth, the series and accompanying book, fundamentally changed the way we view and interact with the natural world setting a new benchmark of quality. A new, beautifully illustrated edition of David Attenborough's groundbreaking Life on ehirimatom.ml Attenborough's unforgettable meeting with gorillas beca. Life on Earth book. Read 82 reviews from the world's largest community for readers. In this unique book, David Attenborough has undertaken nothing less t.
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Life on Earth: A Natural History: David Attenborough: Books - ehirimatom.ml The classic TV series and book influenced a generation. out from the second copy of Life on Earth that my father had acquired, the book that. Life on Earth, the series and accompanying book, fundamentally changed the way we view and interact with the natural world setting a new.
Without water to carry eggs , bodily contact between the sexes was now necessary. This was problematical for some hunters, such as spiders and scorpions , who developed courtship rituals to ensure that the female didn't eat the male. Over time, the plants' cell walls strengthened and they grew taller. Ferns and horsetails were among the first such species. Insects then evolved wings to avoid climbing and the dragonfly which once had a wingspan of 60 centimetres is one of the most successful.
The elaborate wingbeats of the damselfly are shown slowed down times. Some plants, like the cycad enlisted the insects to transport pollen , while others, like the conifer , spread spores. Over a third of forests contain conifers and the giant sequoia of California is the largest living organism of any kind: it grows to a height of metres.
The conifer secretes resin to repair its trunk, and this survives as amber. Within it, insect specimens have been found that are million years old. In fact, at this time, every insect known today was already in existence. There are some one million classified species of insect, and two or three times as many that are yet to be labelled.
Around million years ago, plants began to enlist insects to help with their reproduction, and they did so with flowers. Although the magnolia , for instance, contains male and female cells, pollination from another plant is preferable as it ensures greater variation and thus evolution. Flowers advertise themselves by either scent or display. Some evolved to produce sweet-smelling nectar and in turn, several insects developed their mouth parts into feeding tubes in order to reach it.
However, to ensure that pollination occurs, some species—such as the orchid —have highly complicated mechanisms that must be negotiated first. Others, such as the yucca and its visiting moths , are dependent on one another.
Hunters, such as the mantis , are camouflaged to match the flowers and leaves visited by their prey. Since an insect's skin is chitinous , it has to shed it periodically in order to grow, and the caterpillar , its chrysalis or cocoon and resulting butterfly or moth is one of the more complex examples.
Termites , ants and some bees and wasps overcame any limitations of size by grouping together and forming superorganisms.
The green tree ants of south-east Asia are shown to display the most extraordinary co-operation when building their nests. They have developed a multitude of shapes, sizes and methods of propulsion and navigation. The sea squirt, the lancelet and the lamprey are given as examples of the earliest, simplest types. Then, about million years ago, the first back-boned fish appeared. The Kimberley Ranges of Western Australia are, in fact, the remnants of a coral reef and the ancient seabed.
There, Attenborough discovers fossils of the earliest fish to have developed jaws. These evolved into two shapes of creature with cartilaginous skeletons: wide ones like rays and skates and long ones like sharks. However, it is the fully boned species that were most successful, and spread from the oceans to rivers and lakes.
To adapt to these environments, they had by now acquired gills for breathing, a lateral line to detect movement and a swim bladder to aid buoyancy. Coral reefs contain the greatest variety of species, many of which are conspicuously coloured to ward off predators or attract mates. Their habitat, with its many hiding places within easy reach, allows them to remain so visible. However, the open ocean offers no such refuge, so there is safety in numbers—both hunters and hunted swim in shoals and have streamlined bodies for pursuit or escape.
Most species that live below the thermocline , in the freezing depths of the ocean, have never been filmed, and these are largely represented by still photographs. The fish that did so may have been forced to because of drought , or chose to in search of food.
Either way, they eventually evolved into amphibians. Such creatures needed two things: limbs for mobility and lungs to breathe. The coelacanth is shown as a fish with bony fins that could have developed into legs, and the lungfish is able to absorb gaseous oxygen.
However, evidence of an animal that possessed both is presented in the million-year-old fossilised remains of a fish called a eusthenopteron. Three groups of amphibians are explored.
The caecilians have abandoned legs altogether to aid burrowing, newts and salamanders need to return to the water to allow their skins to breathe, but it is frogs and toads that have been the most successful.
Attenborough handles a goliath frog , the largest of the species, to demonstrate its characteristics. Their webbed feet form parachutes that turn them into "dazzling athletes", and some can leap over 15 metres— times their body length.
In addition, their vocal sacs ensure that mating calls can be heard from up to a mile away. Poison dart frogs deter predators by means of venom , and one such example could kill a human. Various methods of breeding are examined, including laying eggs in rivers, depositing them in other damp habitats for safety or, as with the Brazilian pipa , embedding them within the skin of the parent itself.
They are not as restricted as their amphibian ancestors, since they can survive in the hottest climates. The reason is their scaly, practically watertight skin. The scales protect the body from wear and tear and in the case of some species of lizard , such as the Australian thorny devil, serve to protect from attack.
The horned iguana from the West Indies is also one of the most heavily armoured. The skin is rich in pigment cells, which provide effective means of camouflage, and the chameleon is a well-known example. Temperature control is important to reptiles: they can't generate body heat internally or sweat to keep cool.
Therefore, they rely on the sun and areas of shade. The reptiles were the first vertebrates for whom internal fertilisation was essential, so they developed the watertight egg, which hatches fully formed young. The age of the dinosaurs is explored, and Attenborough surmises that it may have been climate change that led to their abrupt demise. Those that survived were water-dwellers, and the bull Nile crocodile is the largest reptile alive today. Snakes evolved when burrowing lizards lost their legs but returned above ground.
The boa , puff adder and sidewinder demonstrate methods of locomotion, the egg-eating snake [ disambiguation needed ] has an extreme example of a hinged jaw, and the lethal diamondback rattlesnake is described as the most efficient at despatching its prey. The feather is key to everything that is crucial about a bird: it is both its aerofoil and its insulator.
The earliest feathers were found on a fossilised Archaeopteryx skeleton in Bavaria. However, it had claws on its wings and there is only one species alive today that does so: the hoatzin , whose chicks possess them for about a week or so. Nevertheless, it serves to illustrate the probable movement of its ancestor. It may have taken to the trees to avoid predators, and over time, its bony, reptilian tail was replaced by feathers and its heavy jaw evolved into a keratin beak.
Beaks come in a variety of shapes depending on a bird's feeding habits: examples given include the pouched bill of a pelican , the hooked beak of the vulture and the elongated mouth of the hummingbird. Attenborough hails the tern as one of the most graceful flyers and the albatross as a skilled glider. All birds lay eggs, and the range of different nesting sites and parenting skills is explored.
Finally, Attenborough visits Gibraltar to observe migratory birds. These rely on thermals when flying overland and use height to conserve energy when crossing oceans. It is estimated that some 5, million southbound birds cross the Mediterranean Sea each autumn.
The platypus and the echidna are the only mammals that lay eggs in much the same manner of reptiles , and it is from such animals that others in the group evolved. Since mammals have warm blood and most have dense fur , they can hunt at night when temperatures drop. It is for this reason that they became more successful than their reptile ancestors, who needed to heat themselves externally.
Much of the programme is devoted to marsupials whose young are partially formed at birth of which fossils have been found in the Americas dating back 60 million years. However, because of continental drift , this kind of mammal flourished in Australia. Examples shown include the quoll , the Tasmanian devil , the koala , the wombat and the largest marsupial, the red kangaroo.
The thylacine was similar to a wolf but is now thought to be extinct. In , bones of creatures such as a 3-metre-tall kangaroo and a ferocious marsupial lion were found in a cave in Naracoorte , South Australia. The reason for these animals' extinction is, once again, thought to be climate change.
Finally, Attenborough describes the most prolific mammals—those that originated in the Northern Hemisphere and give birth to fully formed young. He states, "The placenta and the womb between them provide a degree of safety and a continuity of sustenance which is unparalleled in the animal world.
The chapter on the story of us is the most significantly different in the new edition. Back in the 70s, there was an academic debate about whether the nursery of modern humans was centred in East Africa, followed by an exodus to cover the globe, or if individual populations had evolved roughly in the locations they are today.
Within the last couple of years, that East African stranglehold has been slightly loosened by fossils in Morocco — we may be moving towards our being a sort of pan-African Gestalt species. In , Attenborough had picked the wrong team, and was an ardent multiregionalist. We should now regard them not as oafish thugs, but simply as people, with sophisticated thought, art and culture.
This is because most life on Earth is bacteria, and while we are grappling with the colossal importance of those myriad single cells, they are not very televisual, and the focus here is on the charismatic animals and plants that make for relatable stories.
It does all three and one more: There is much more detail in the book than on our screens. For odd, historical reasons, the BBC keeps natural history and science in separate silos, as if displaying the scientific fact of evolution can only be represented in the glory of nature.
But make no mistake, this is a science book.
The life cycles of creatures are explained with reference to the Darwinian ideas of natural and sexual selection. Biodiversity and the networks of life are highlighted in a way that was absent in the first edition. And then there are the photos. Nowadays, we are somewhat inured to the spectacle of wildlife photography , largely because of Attenborough himself, and the tireless work of his camera crews, photographers and field scientists.
We see breathtaking images of the natural world every day, shared on social media for us to gasp at. I sat with my four-year-old daughter and we flicked through the pictures; she liked the pangolin, not so much the grim fanfin seadevil, and was transfixed by a leopard taking down a pained, bloodied springbok, teeth sunk into its haunch. I have dedicated my life to studying and talking in awe about evolution.
Last year, I recorded my daughter commentating over Blue Planet II , and posted it online; it became a minor internet phenomenon. I know Attenborough saw this video, and I hope he knows that the continuity of his work is transgenerational. In another 40 years, there will be scientists continuing to change the way we understand this living planet. Stare at those pictures, wonder at how those beasts evolved. I have little doubt that one of your daughters will cite Attenborough as her inspiration, too.