A New History of Life: The Radical New Discoveries about the Origins and Evolution of Life on Earth

A New History of Life: The Radical New Discoveries about the Origins and Evolution of Life on Earth

Peter D. Ward, Joe Kirschvink

Language: English

Pages: 328

ISBN: 160819910X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Charles Darwin's theories, first published more than 150 years ago, form the backbone of how we understand the history of the Earth. In reality, the currently accepted history of life on Earth is so flawed, so out of date, that it's past time we need a 'New History of Life.'

In their latest book, Joe Kirschvink and Peter Ward will show that many of our most cherished beliefs about the evolution of life are wrong. Gathering and analyzing years of discoveries and research not yet widely known to the public, A New History of Life proposes a different origin of species than the one Darwin proposed, one which includes eight-foot-long centipedes, a frozen "snowball Earth," and the seeds for life originating on Mars.

Drawing on their years of experience in paleontology, biology, chemistry, and astrobiology, experts Ward and Kirschvink paint a picture of the origins life on Earth that are at once too fabulous to imagine and too familiar to dismiss—and looking forward, A New History of Life brilliantly assembles insights from some of the latest scientific research to understand how life on Earth can and might evolve far into the future.



















heating can be lethal. And the two aspects of this physiological system—the amount of oxygen available and the amount of heat energy—combine to make things even more lethal: animals need more oxygen as heat increases. Of the three extinctions, the data for the Triassic-Jurassic CO2 rise is particularly stunning. University of Chicago paleobotanist Jenny McElwain, collecting rocks in the dangerous and frigid outcrops amid the ice of Greenland in the last years of the twentieth century, showed

this differential increases: a bird at five thousand feet in altitude may be 200 percent more efficient at extracting oxygen than a mammal. This gives the birds a huge advantage over mammals and reptiles living at altitude. And if such a system were present deep in the past, when oxygen even at sea level was lower than we find today at five thousand feet, surely such a design would have been advantageous, perhaps enormously so, to the group that had it in competing or preying on groups that did

able to take organisms to this place and then bring them back. In fact there is no English word that accurately captures the essence of this place. Moviemakers call it zombie land or some such, and maybe stiff-necked science will eventually adopt that term. But we doubt it. Here was one of his critical experiments. He took flatworms, simple animals, but animals nonetheless. Yet compared to any microbe, no animal can be called simple. He lowered the oxygen content that the flatworms were

of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences 268 (2001): 459–69; S. Hope, “The Mesozoic Radiation of Neornithes,” in L. M. Chiappe et al., eds., Mesozoic Birds: Above the Heads of Dinosaurs (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), 339–88; Z. Zhang et al., “A Primitive Confuciusornithid Bird from China and Its Implications for Early Avian Flight,” Science in China Series D 51, no. 5 (2008): 625–39. 15.   N. R. Longrich et al., “Mass Extinction of Birds at the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg)

settle and not be picked up again by currents, waves, or wind and carried to some other locality. Yet the Ediacaran fossils are both large and numerous, and are found in such sandstone settings. To further test this dilemma, in the summer of 1987 coauthor Peter Ward invited students enrolled in an advanced paleontology class at the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Marine Labs on San Juan Island in Washington State to attempt to re-create the conditions that led to the formation of the

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