Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Approaching the diversity of animal life on Earth from a natural history and natural selection approach, David Attenborough provides a compact overview of what his first chapter calls “The Endless Variety.” Discovering Life on Earth is referred to as a “shorter, simplified text” version of the thirteen-part television series on which it is based. Through the thirteen chapters of this book, the reader follows the development of the animal kingdom as illustrated by stories about increasingly complex organisms and their interrelationships with the various facets of their environment.

Simple, one-celled organisms begin the story and lead the reader into the fossil record of the earliest lifeforms. From there, the text progresses through the first forests and the animals that constituted the planet’s first inhabitants. Attenborough then moves on to “The Conquest of the Waters” by aquatic organisms both great and small. From there, the emergence of complex lifeforms onto the lands of the earth is described. Insects, birds, marsupials, then predators and prey—all major groups of animals are considered, along with some of the less well known representatives that occupy specialized niches in the earth’s vastly complex communities.

The chronicle of life on Earth concludes with “The Arrival of Mankind.” In this chapter, the author describes the emergence of humankind on the African plains more than five million years ago,...

(The entire section is 407 words.)