Evolution: The Story of Life

By Douglas Palmer, illustrated by Peter Barrett

University of California Press, 2009; 374 pages, $39.95

If time machines were real, this would be the book to carry on nature hikes into the distant past. Science writer Douglas Palmer and natural history illustrator Peter Barrett have created a field guide to evolution that should win the praise of scholars and armchair paleontologists alike. Barrett’s 100 double-page illustrations and two gatefold spreads trace the development of life on Earth from the stromatolites of 3.4 billion years ago through eras of fantastic, vanished diversity to modern-day Homo sapiens. Complementing the drawings are Palmer’s explanatory text, a section showing family trees of the various species, a listing of the fossil species by groups, and a “gazetteer” describing the geological sites that yielded fossil evidence for each illustration.

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