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Cradle of Life:
The Discovery of Earth's Earliest Fossils
J. William Schopf

Book Description | Reviews
Chapter 1


Prologue xi
Acknowledgments xv

Chapter 1. Darwin's Dilemma 3
Breakthrough to the Ancient Past 3
The Nature of Geologic Time 4
The "Schoolbook" History of Life 10
Darwin's Dilemma 13
Denouement 34

Chapter 2. Birth of a New Field of Science 35
The Floodgates Crack Open 35
Famous Figures Enter the Field 48
A Youngster Joins the Fray 52
The Floodgates Open Full Bore 61

Chapter 3. The Oldest Fossils and What They Mean 71
"Trust but Verify" 71
"Real World Problems" in the Search for Early Life 71
Questions and Answers about the Oldest Records of Life 75
The Oldest Fossils Known 99

Chapter 4. How Did Life Begin? 101
The Basics of Biology 101
The Universals of Life 107
How Did Monomers of CHON Arise on the Lifeless Earth? 108
Organic Monomers beyond the Earth 131
How Did Monomers Become Linked into Polymers? 134
From Monomers to Polymers toward Life 138

Chapter 5. Metabolic Memories of the Earliest Cells 139
How Did Cells Begin? 139
The Essentials of Life 143
Life's Earliest Way to Make a Living 150
Air and Light: A New Source of Glucose 155
Why Do We Breathe Oxygen? 158
The Four-Stage Development of Modern Metabolism 161

Chapter 6. So Far, So Fast, So Early? 164
How Old Is the Modern Ecosystem? 164
When Did Life Begin? 166
How Did Evolution Proceed So Far, So Fast, So Early? 168
Paleobiology: Fossils, Geology, and Geochemistry 169
Isotopic Evidence of Ancient Metabolisms 173
Paleobiology: Direct Evidence of Early Evolution 181

Chapter 7. Stromatolites: Earth's First High-Rise Condos 183
Nature Is Not Compartmentalized 183
Stromatolites: Earth's First High-Rise Condos 184
Stromatolites of the Geologic Past 195
What Are Stromatolites Good For? 201

Chapter 8. Cyanobacteria: Earth's Oldest "Living Fossils" 209
Modes and Tempos in the Evolution of Life 209
The Status Quo Evolution of Cyanobacteria 215
Evolution's Most Successful Ecologic Generalists 231

Chapter 9. Cells Like Ours Arise at Last 236
Life Like Us Has Cells Like Ours 236
DNA and Development: Keys to Eukaryotic Success 237
How Old Are the Eukaryotes? 240
Eukaryotes Perfect the Art of Cloning 243
Sex: A New Lifestyle Brings Major Change 246
The Wax and Wane of Precambrian Acritarchs 252
Prelude to the Phanerozoic 259

Chapter 10. Solution to Darwin's Dilemma 264
The Adventure of Science 264
Take-Home Lessons 269
Solution to Darwin's Dilemma 269

Chapter 11. Fossils, Foibles, and Frauds 281
The Goal Is to "Get It Right" 281
"Man, a Witness of the Deluge" 282
Beringer's Lying Stones 291
Theories on the Nature of Fossils 299
Unearthing a Rosetta Stone 303

Chapter 12. The Hunt for Life on Mars 304
Hints of Ancient Martian Life? 304
NASA Stages a Press Conference 306
Meteorites from Mars 310
Search for the Smoking Gun 313
Lessons from the Hunt 324

Glossary 327
Further Reading 349
Index of Geologic Units and Genera and Species 357
Subject Index 361

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File created: 4/21/2017

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