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Survivors: The Animals and Plants that Time has Left Behind Hardcover – 1 Sep 2011


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPress; First printing. edition (1 Sept. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 000720986X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007209866
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 3.6 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 151,253 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Richard Fortey retired from his position as senior palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum in 2006. He is the author of several books, including 'Fossils: A Key to the Past', 'The Hidden Landscape' which won The Natural World Book of the Year in 1993, 'Life: An Unauthorised Biography', 'Trilobite!', 'The Earth: An Intimate History', and most recently 'Dry Store Room No.1: The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum'. He was elected to be President of the Geological Society of London for its bicentennial year of 2007, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society.

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Review

‘Fortey is one of the world’s most acclaimed natural history writers.’ Tim Flannery, New York Review of Books

‘A true delight: full of awe-inspiring details… the book blends travel, history, reportage and science to create an unforgettable picture of our ancient earth.’ Sunday Times

‘Dazzling….Richard Fortey is without peer amongst science writers.’ Bill Bryson

“a pleasure to read…erudite and engaging” TLS

About the Author

Richard Fortey retired from his position as senior palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum in 2006. He is the author of several books, including ‘Fossils: A Key to the Past’, ‘The Hidden Landscape’ which won The Natural World Book of the Year in 1993, ‘Life: An Unauthorised Biography’, ‘Trilobite!’ and ‘The Earth: An Intimate History’ and Dry Store-room No. 1. He was elected President of the Geological Society of London for its bicentennial year of 2007, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society.


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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Garry Paton on 13 Sept. 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the latest of several titles from Fortey. As with all his books, the standard is high. The text is smooth and concise, sliding from one valid, fascinating point to another. Never have I found the irritating practise of having to 'redo', that is, going through the paragraph and attempting to 'decipher' what the writer was trying to say. I found myself quickly turning over the pages, gorging myself on fascinating information, coming to the end of each chapter, eager to read on. Fortey does an excellent job is presenting the information in a way that can quickly be interpreted, regardless of the individual's academic background.

The emphasis is clearly given, that is, the humbling fact of looking at extremophilic bacteria, a velvet worm or a horseshoe crab and realising that a window to the distant past is made available. Indeed, survivors they are, witnesses to terrible mass extinctions and the pace of evolution around them, whereby, fortuitously, they have found the particular niche and 'remained so'.

If you have an interest in the history of life, you will thoroughly enjoy this book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mr. A. Pearce on 8 Feb. 2012
Format: Hardcover
A really great book! Far more information than the TV series (which was good) and excellently written.

In my view Richard Fortey's books (and I have nearly all of them) are a great body of highly accessible work around the subject of paleontology, as well as geology.

I think he is now to be ranked with Stephen Jay Gould, but with a major advantage: he writes full books, instead of mainly essays.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Barbara A. Baker on 8 April 2012
Format: Hardcover
The renowned palaeontologist writes vividly about his encounters with creatures whose ancient origins are not difficult to discern in the fossil record. It's always a pleasure to spend a few hundred pages in the company of Mr Fortey - entertaining and stylish writer that he is - and I finished his latest book filled with a renewed enthusiasm for palaeontology - with its geological and biological foundations - and with a desire to at last find out something about botany.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By KirkW1 on 11 Aug. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a confessed fan of Dr Fortey, and having reviewed at least one of two of his books before, it is probably not necessary to leave a positive review of 'Survivors'. It goes without saying that this is a great book which answered many of the questions I had about why some animals (e.g. the horseshoe crab) survive more or less unchanged for countless millions of years, while others either rapidly evolve into something else or vanish altogether.

Yet I nevertheless feel compelled to ask (in relation to the BBC TV series of this book ('Survivors: Nature's Indestructible Creatures'))... Was it actually necessary to EAT the species in question?? It was amusing when it came to the sea cucumbers etc., but slightly less so when marvelling about the precarious survival of some near-extinct mammal, only to be seen chowing down on one a few minutes later. Was this the misguided idea of the director, or of Richard himself? Either way... it struck me as peculiar, to say the least.

[But yay for the book anyway].
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I would argue that Richard Fortey's book about Trilobites is easily one of the best popular science books I have read and "Survivors" has the same witty style of writing that is both informative and amusing. That said, I did find some of the information a bit difficult to follow, especially with regard to the earlier forms of life and whilst I don't think any other writer could have probably put the science in a more readable fashion, I still found it difficult to follow - even though I have an A level in biology!

For me, it is the link back to my time studying classification which makes this book interesting and it is fascinating to see how studies in to DNA have rendered so much about what I learned between 1983-5 as redundant. Some of the animals may have been primitive yet it was interesting to become reacquainted with them again as well as animals such as brachiopods which I can recall from some of my old prehistoric animal books that I had as a child. There is a lot of interesting information here and parts of the book are absolutely fascinating. The chapter on plants is surprisingly good.

Having said that, it is pretty clear that the notion of "survivors" isn't quite correct and , as the author is at pains to explain, evolution is a continuous thing so that you learn that the amphibians that exist today are largely descended from post-Cretaceous ancestors. If there is a weakness, it is perhaps a bias towards invertebrates and maybe a fuller explanation of the flora and fauna during each geological period would have made the story more rounded.
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By Sir Barnabas VINE VOICE on 13 Jan. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Starting in Delaware with the horseshoe crab, the author takes us on a journey around the globe to uncover various creatures and plants whose basic design has not changed significantly through vast ages of geological time. The journey takes in, amongst a wholelot more, velvet worms in New Zealand, the stromatolites of Shark Bay in Australia as well, ginko trees in China and the various microflora of Yellowstone national park.

As the author points out, these are not living fossils (a term that he reminds us is both paradoxical and oxymoronic) as such - evolution, after all, continues to act on these creatures at the genomic level. Whilst not exact facsimiles of their fossilised ancestors, these creatures can nonetheless reveal information about that distant past that would otherwise be hidden from us if all we had to go on were fossils - something that Richard Fortey does with his customary literary flourish.

A great piece of natural history writing from a great populariser of natural history.
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