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Marvelous Microfossils

'Marvelous Microfossils' cover image

Marvelous Microfossils

Creators, Timekeepers, Architects

Training a powerful lens on the microscopic wonders of the universe, hundreds of photos, both exquisite and strange, accompany this startling exposé of a secret world invisibly evolving around us for billions of years.

Microfossils—the most abundant, ancient, and easily accessible of Earth's fossils—are also the most important. Their ubiquity is such that every person on the planet touches or uses them every single day, and yet few of us even realize they exist. Despite being the sole witnesses of 3 billion years of evolutionary history, these diminutive fungi, plants, and animals are themselves invisible to the eye. In this microscopic bestiary, prominent geologist, paleontologist, and scholar Patrick De Wever lifts the veil on their mysterious world.

Marvelous Microfossils lays out the basics of what microfossils are before moving on to the history, tools, and methods of investigating them. The author describes the applications of their study, both practical and sublime. Microfossils, he explains, are indispensable in age-dating and paleoenvironmental reconstruction, which guide enormous investments in the oil, gas, and mining industries. De Wever shares surprising stories of how microfossils made the Chunnel possible and have unmasked perpetrators in jewel heists and murder investigations. He also reveals that microfossils created the stunning white cliffs on the north coast of France, graced the tables of the Medici family, and represent our best hope for discovering life on the exoplanets at the outer edges of our solar system.

Describing the many strange and beautiful groups of known microfossils in detail, De Wever combines lyrical prose with hundreds of arresting color images, from delicate nineteenth-century drawings of phytoplankton drafted by Ernst Haeckel, the "father of ecology," to cutting-edge scanning electron microscope photographs of billion-year-old acritarchs. De Wever's ode to the invisible world around us allows readers to peer directly into a minute microcosm with massive implications, even traversing eons to show us how life arose on Earth.