The Variety of Life: A Survey and a Celebration of All the Creatures That Have Ever Lived

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9780198604266: The Variety of Life: A Survey and a Celebration of All the Creatures That Have Ever Lived
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This text can be read at many levels. Not least it is an extraordinary inventory - an illustrated summary of all the Earthly creatures that have ever lived. Whatever living thing you come across, from E-coli to an oak tree or an elephant, this book will show you what kind of creature it is, and how it relates to all others. Yet there are far too many creatures to present merely as a catalogue. The list of species already described is vast enough - nearly two million - but there could in reality be as many as 30 million different animals, plants, fungi and protists - and perhaps another 400 million different bacteria and archaea. In the 4000 million years or so since life first began on Earth, there could have been several thousand billion different species. The only way to keep track of so many is to classify - placing similar creatures into categories, which nest within larger categories, and so on. As the centuries have passed, so it has become clear that the different groups are far more diverse than had ever been appreciated. Thus Linneus in the 18th century placed all living things in just two kingdoms, Animals and Plants.

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It takes a brave writer to tackle the truly Herculean task of describing The Variety of Life with the astronomical numbers of organisms living today, let alone all those that have fallen by the wayside over the billions of years of life on Earth. No one is quite sure how many living species there are, but it is estimated to be somewhere between 10 million and 100 million. Fortunately, since the days of the great Swedish naturalist Linnaeus, around 250 years ago, life has been grouped and classified into hierarchical schemes. As a result, it is possible to encompass this enormous variety of life by describing the relatively few groups into which it can be clustered. And, since the mid-19th century and the Darwin-Wallace theory of evolution by natural selection, classification has taken on an extra, evolutionary dimension.

Colin Tudge, a well-known British science writer, has training in whole animal biology and a self-proclaimed love for the natural-historical foray among our fellow creatures. The first part of this big book (all of 90 pages) deals with the thorny problems of what Tudge rightly calls the craft and science of classification. Since the 1950s, the word cladistics has terrorized many traditional naturalists and biologists. But it is here to stay, and Tudge provides a very welcome guide that will be invaluable to both lay people and students.

The bulk of the text, nearly 500 pages, forms part II and includes the descriptions of the main groups, from the most primitive (alpha proteobacteria) prokaryotes to Eupatorium, a large genus of 1,800 or so species of plant. In between these two groups, at either end of the biological spectrum, lie all the more familiar bugs and beasts, including ourselves. Inevitably, given so many millions of organisms, difficult choices have to be made. Some groups are only dealt with at phylum level (for example, brachiopods), while others are detailed down to family level (for example, primates). Some extinct groups (not surprisingly, the dinosaurs) get a look, but not many overall. The short epilogue concerns conservation and is followed by a useful reference list of sources and an index. Altogether, the 600-odd pages are enlivened with a large number of excellent black-and-white drawings of individual organisms and diagrams illustrating evolutionary relationships. For all natural historians and anyone interested in biology, the The Variety of Life is a must. --Douglas Palmer, Amazon.co.uk

About the Author:

The IVariety of Life reflects Colin Tudge's lifelong passion for natural history and for the underlying science. He was born in London, educated at Dulwich College and Peterhouse, Cambridge, and graduated in the mid 1960s with a degree in zoology. Full-time jobs have included features editor
ofNew Scientist, and presenter of science programmes on BBC Radio 3. He has been a full-time author since 1990 but has also written for The Independent, The Independent on Sunda, The Guardian, The Times, Natural History, The New Statesman, and the Royal Shakespeare Company: and has lectured in many
venues from the London School of Economics to the World Economic Forum. He has served on the Council of the Zoological Society of London and is currently a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London and a Research Fellow at the Centre for Philosophy at the London School of Economics. He has three
grown-up children, one of whom helped with the present book.

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9780198503118: The Variety of Life: A Survey and a Celebration of All the Creatures that Have Ever Lived

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ISBN 10: 0198503113 ISBN 13: 9780198503118
Publisher: Oxford University Press, 2000
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Book Description Oxford University Press, United Kingdom, 2010. Paperback. Condition: New. Revised ed. Language: English. Brand new Book. The Variety of Life can be read at many levels. Not least it is an extraordinary inventory - an illustrated summary of all the Earthly creatures that have ever lived. Whatever living thing you come across, from E coli to an oak tree or an elephant, The Variety of Life will show you what kind of creature it is, and how it relates to all others. Yet there are far too many creatures to present merely as a catalogue. The list of species alreadydescribed is vast enough - nearly two million - but there could in reality be as many as 30 million different animals, plants, fungi and protists - and perhaps another 400 million different bacteria and archaea. In the 4,000 million years or so since life first began on Earth, there could have been several thousandbillion different species. The only way to keep track of so many is to classify - placing similar creatures into categories, which nest within larger categories, and so on. As the centuries have passed, so it has become clear that the different groups are far more diverse than had ever been appreciated. Thus Linneus in the 18th century placed all living things in just two kingdoms, Animals and Plants. By the 1950s this had become five kingdoms - with fungi, protists, and bacteria hived offinto their own separate groups. But leading biologists today acknowledge three vastly different domains, each divided into many kingdoms - so that animals and plants, spectacular though they are, are just a fragment of the whole. The Variety of Life explains the means by which systematists haveattempted such a mammoth classification of so many various creatures - which in turn leads us into some of the most intriguing and knottiest areas of modern biology: evolutionary theory, molecular genetics, and the history of biological thought. Finally, however, The Variety of Life can simply be seen as a celebration. We should all share Miranda's pleasure in Shakespeare's Tempest - 'How many goodly creatures are there here!' - and feel, as she did, what a privilege it isto share this planet with such wonders. Their fate is in our hands; and first, we must begin to appreciate them. Seller Inventory # AAV9780198604266

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Book Description Oxford University Press, United Kingdom, 2010. Paperback. Condition: New. Revised ed. Language: English. Brand new Book. The Variety of Life can be read at many levels. Not least it is an extraordinary inventory - an illustrated summary of all the Earthly creatures that have ever lived. Whatever living thing you come across, from E coli to an oak tree or an elephant, The Variety of Life will show you what kind of creature it is, and how it relates to all others. Yet there are far too many creatures to present merely as a catalogue. The list of species alreadydescribed is vast enough - nearly two million - but there could in reality be as many as 30 million different animals, plants, fungi and protists - and perhaps another 400 million different bacteria and archaea. In the 4,000 million years or so since life first began on Earth, there could have been several thousandbillion different species. The only way to keep track of so many is to classify - placing similar creatures into categories, which nest within larger categories, and so on. As the centuries have passed, so it has become clear that the different groups are far more diverse than had ever been appreciated. Thus Linneus in the 18th century placed all living things in just two kingdoms, Animals and Plants. By the 1950s this had become five kingdoms - with fungi, protists, and bacteria hived offinto their own separate groups. But leading biologists today acknowledge three vastly different domains, each divided into many kingdoms - so that animals and plants, spectacular though they are, are just a fragment of the whole. The Variety of Life explains the means by which systematists haveattempted such a mammoth classification of so many various creatures - which in turn leads us into some of the most intriguing and knottiest areas of modern biology: evolutionary theory, molecular genetics, and the history of biological thought. Finally, however, The Variety of Life can simply be seen as a celebration. We should all share Miranda's pleasure in Shakespeare's Tempest - 'How many goodly creatures are there here!' - and feel, as she did, what a privilege it isto share this planet with such wonders. Their fate is in our hands; and first, we must begin to appreciate them. Seller Inventory # LIE9780198604266

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