3 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

The first life forms appeared on this small blue dot about 3.7 billion years ago. Since then it has made this place unique in all the planets in the solar system and so far the universe. The number of species has ebbed and flowed constantly, surviving meteorite strikes, mass extinctions and constantly reinventing as everything changes.

So choosing ten species to represent a key aspect of how life is formed from the millions that have gone before is not an easy task. The life forms she has chosen are the fern, a virus, a nautilus, the sponge, a stick insect, the dusky seaside sparrow, the giraffe, softshell turtle, the finches of the Galapagos Islands and of course humans.

For each choice, Taylor has written a chapter with her reasons behind it and lots of details about the lifeform, its place in our world and where it came from on the great family tree of life on this planet. It is packed full of facts and detail about each and I learnt something in every chapter, that the nautilus has been around for millions of years, that some animals are adapting really quickly to environmental change and how convergent evolution shows how vastly different species come up with broadly similar solutions.

There are lots of other books out there that go into much more detail on the origins of life and evolution. However, for some readers there can be too much detail, Taylor in this book has managed to get the balance about right for those venturing into popular science for the first time. I like the way she has picked ten different species to expand on the science of life. There are rich and informative infographics throughout the book that help make it less intimidating. It is a well put together book.

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