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Tales From The Underground: A Natural History Of Subterranean Life Paperback – May, 2002
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Scientists are only beginning to comprehend the wealth of life that lies below the earth's surface, observes Wolfe, a soil scientist at Cornell University. Apart from familiar, easily observable subterranean creatures--earthworms, say, or prairie dogs--those scientists have found there progressively tinier forms of life, from "water bears" (tardigrades) and dust mites to microbes whose existence miles below the earth's surface provides keys to the origins of life itself. Noting that the total biomass below the surface may well exceed that above it, Wolfe takes his readers on a learned tour of the subsurface biosphere, layer by layer, mile by mile. What he reports is surprising, and oddly inspiring--for, Wolfe notes, although the human footprint on the soil is deep indeed, and getting deeper, plenty of life occurs beyond our reach.
"We know more about the movement of celestial bodies than about the soil underfoot," Leonardo da Vinci observed five hundred year ago. Wolfe's book helps diminish some of our ignorance, and it is a pleasure to be educated through the course of his pages. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
In these pages, you will meet Dr. Carl Woese, who in 1976 suspected that the lowly methane-producing soil bacterium he was examining was something entirely different. He started doing analyses on the nucleic acid (specifically, RNA) in the creatures, and confirmed that they were more different from regular bacteria than humans are from redwood trees. He had not found a new species, but an entirely new superkingdom of organisms. You will become acquainted with microbial communities thousands of feet down, who thrive in hot temperatures, dark, high pressure, and lack of oxygen. They feed on oil or other carbon sources, or on hydrogen in the rocks. One of the results of these findings is that they seem to make the possibility of life on other planets more likely; it used to be that we looked for planets that had just about the same sunlight, water, and so on as our own, but this was another example of chauvinism. You will find out just how the lowly fungus has an intimate and essential relation to the roots of almost every plant, and about prairie dogs, and other animals digging around underneath.Read more ›
He began the book with a nice overall introduction to the subject, more than sufficient to grab my attention. In one just pinch of soil from your backyard, you will be holding close to one billion individual living organisms, including quite a few that are not named, classified, or in any way studied, animals ranging in size from the tiniest of microbes to microscopic threads of fungal hyphae, the total length of which might be best measured in miles, not inches. In a handful of soil there are more creatures than humans currently alive. A typical square yard of soil contains billions of microscopic roundworms called nematodes, a dozen to several hundred earthworms, 100,000 to 500,000 insects and other arthropods, and staggering numbers of single-celled organisms. After reviewing some basics about soil layers and types, he went into more detail about this subterranean world.
The first chapter discussed the origins of life on earth, much of which had to do with life in the soil.Read more ›
David W. Wolfe, Associate Professor of Plant Ecology at Cornell, fired by his own enthusiasm for things extreme and underground, explores these ideas and findings in a captivating way in this informative book. He begins with the soil, what it is made of, how it was formed. "In a handful of typical healthy soil there are more creatures than there are humans on the entire planet," he advises us on page one. He explores the relationship between mycorrhizal fungi and their above ground symbionts, noting that within that same handful of soil there are "hundreds of miles of fungal threads." There are also within one square yard of soil "billions of microscopic roundworms called nematodes, anywhere from a dozen to several hundred of the much larger earthworms, and 100,000 to 5000,000 insects and other arthropods." He points out that many of these creatures "defy classification; they simply have never been seen before." (p.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a really well written and interesting book. It really pulls you in as it explains the technical side of the microorganisms under out feet in a simple manner. Read morePublished 5 months ago by D
I got around to reading this book after browsing my campus library shelves. I'd heard about it but never read it. Read morePublished 18 months ago by lyndonbrecht
I bought this book because it was referenced in David Haskell’s The Forest Unseen, which I greatly admire for its poetic exploration of a forest microcosm. Read morePublished on March 23, 2014 by Ken Kardash
A great deal, says David Wolfe. It's a busy place beneath your soles, and all that activity is more important than we realise. Read morePublished on October 15, 2006 by Stephen A. Haines
All the great reviews, misled me to expect not only a very readable but also a highly informative text. I was disappointed. Read morePublished on August 3, 2005 by Wulf Barnim
Soil organisms seldom get their due. Despite the fact that we gain our food directly or indirectly from the soil, few people think much about what exists between the soil... Read morePublished on April 3, 2005 by David B Richman
This natural history of subterranean life examines unexplored terrain and its unique and varied habitats, from microscopic life to small water bears. Read morePublished on August 8, 2002 by Midwest Book Review
This book is science at the level one sees on television. The emphasis is on the strange and unusual, liberally spiced with the author's opinions and prejudices. Read morePublished on July 16, 2002 by Michael J. Miller