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Survivors: The Animals and Plants that Time has Left Behind [Hardcover]

Richard Fortey
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
Price: 25.00 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 Sep 2011

An awe-inspiring journey through the eons of time and across the globe, in search of visible traces of evolution in living creatures which have survived from earliest times and whose stories speak to us of seminal events in the history of life.

‘Reading Richard Fortey is always pure pleasure’ BILL BRYSON

The history of life on Earth is far older – and far odder – than many of us realise. In this book, acclaimed author Richard Fortey traces this history not through fossil records, but in the living stories of organisms that have survived nearly unchanged for hundreds of millions of years and whose existence today affords us tantalising glimpses of landscapes long vanished.

For evolution has not obliterated its tracks. Scattered across the globe, strange and marvellous plants and animals have survived virtually unchanged since life first began. They range from humble algal mats dating back almost two billion years to hardy musk oxen, which linger as the last vestiges of Ice Age fauna.

Following in Fortey’s questing footsteps, Survivors takes us on fascinating journey to these ancient worlds. On a moonlit beach in Delaware where the horseshoe crab shuffles its way through a violent romance, we catch a glimpse of life 450 million years ago, shortly after it diversified on the ocean floor. Along a stretch of Australian coastline, we bear witness to the sights and sounds that would have greeted a Precambrian dawn. Finally, in the dense rainforests of New Zealand where the secretive velvet worm burrows into the rotting timber of the jungle floor, we marvel at a living fossil which has survived unchanged since before the dissolution of the Gondwana supercontinent.

Written with Fortey’s customary sparkle and gusto, this wonderfully engrossing exploration of the world’s oldest flora and fauna brilliantly combines the best science writing about the origins of life with an explorer’s sense of adventure and a poet’s wonder at the natural world. Utterly compelling, eye-opening and awe-inspiring, this is a book for anyone with an interest in evolution, in nature, in the remarkable scope of geological time and our own modest interaction with it – in short, in life itself.


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Survivors: The Animals and Plants that Time has Left Behind + Life: an Unauthorised Biography + Trilobite! Eyewitness to Evolution
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPress; First Edition edition (1 Sep 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 000720986X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007209866
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 79,379 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.

Product Description

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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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
45 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A joy to read. 13 Sep 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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Richard Fortey's 'Survivors' 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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Read 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
5.0 out of 5 stars A tasty morsel 11 Aug 2012
By KirkW1
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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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Flawed but still full of interesting stuff 14 April 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is the first of Fortey's books I have read however I am aware of his reputation, and usually enjoy books about evolution especially with paleontological or geological backgrounds. Hence it was a no-brainer to give it a go.

First, what is good, in my opinion: Fortey as well as being an expert academic paleontologist (which after all is essential before you even think about authoring such a book) is quite a good communicator. One would expect this, since he is based at the Natural History Museum which has a long reputation for powerfully engaging the minds of the general public with, it must be said, some of the most thought-provoking themes available to popular science. I so enjoyed the first fifth of the book that I felt I wanted to carry on reading the whole thing in one long session.

Second, what is not so good, again purely in my own opinion - so don't shoot me. Stylistically and in terms of the organisation of the book, Fortey and his coterie of editors come across as lazy (or short of time) and unfocussed. It's impossible to say how much of this is down to Fortey and how much to others who work professionally with his raw material to try to create a best-seller, so all I can say is how the end product comes over to me.

The themes seem to wander around, rather like Fortey himself has wandered around the planet, very expensively, to research the material. There is litle organisation evident within each chapter to orient the reader, so sometimes a digression away from his current subject leads to something else of importance and never returns, whereas at other times the digressions are temporary - but you never know in advance as they are not signalled.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Book better than the TV programme 10 Dec 2013
By SPR47
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought this book as there was no DVD of the BBC programme available. I am glad there wasn't because when it was broadcast again I realised how much better the book is.
This book is written to address both people with and without experience in evolution, palaeontology. There are black & white illustrations throughout with two sets of colour plates in the middle of the book. It is an interesting read which opens up interest in locations as well as evolutionary processes.
I would rate this book as interesting, accessible and a good read. It's a good eye-opener for going out into the countryside as well as a natural history museum of your choice...
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable cast of fauna and flora that have endured through...
The 'horseshoe crab' (cousin to scorpions), platypus, wollemi pine, velvet worm etc etc etc. There's a lot of info, so this is not a 'light' book, but read cover-to cover or just... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Nik
4.0 out of 5 stars Confining my A level biology to prehistory!
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... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Ian Thumwood
5.0 out of 5 stars Product and service
I bought this item as a gift and it arrived to my door in perfect condition. it was thoroughly enjoyed by the reader and i would recommend amazon to my friends for their swift... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Helen O'Brien
5.0 out of 5 stars evolution
The author takes the unusual but very interesting approach to evolution starting at the present and working back to determine why some plants and animals have not evolved over time... Read more
Published 15 months ago by G. I. Forbes
5.0 out of 5 stars Richard Fortey at his best.
Fortey explains things so beautifully. He makes readable some of the things I struggle with in text books. The present, in this case, is the key to the past.
Published 15 months ago by Ms. J. A. Russell
4.0 out of 5 stars I'm a survivor...!
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... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Sir Barnabas
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book
This book is the best book I have ever read. It is very informative. Every page was fascinating. The use of photographs in the book is helpful.
Published on 12 April 2012 by AlanRobertson
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