About the Author

Claire Eamer

Claire Eamer has written many award-winning nonfiction books for children, including Before the World Was Ready: Stories of Daring Genius in Science; The World in Your Lunch Box: The Wacky History and Weird Science of Everyday Foods; and Super Crocs & Monster Wings: Modern Animals’ Ancient Pasts. She lives on Gabriola Island in British Columbia.

Books by this Author
Before the World Was Ready

Before the World Was Ready

Stories of Daring Genius in Science
by Claire Eamer
illustrated by Sa Boothroyd
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
tagged : discoveries
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Inside Your Insides

Inside Your Insides

A Guide to the Microbes That Call You Home
edition:Hardcover
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Lizards in the Sky

Lizards in the Sky

Animals Where You Least Expect Them
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
tagged : zoology
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Out of the Ice

Out of the Ice

How Climate Change Is Revealing the Past
by Claire Eamer
illustrated by Drew Shannon
edition:Hardcover
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Spiked Scorpions and Walking Whales

Spiked Scorpions and Walking Whales

Modern Animals, Ancient Animals, and Water
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
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Excerpt

Excerpt

It Came from the Sea

WHAT CAME FROM THE SEA? Everything. Everything alive, that is.

Stand on a sandy beach on a hot summer's day and what do you see? Life, everywhere you look.

People build castles in the sand, splash in the waves, and swim in the deeper water. Gulls swoop and scream overhead, shorebirds tiptoe along the water's edge, and insects buzz and flit through the grass above the beach.

It's hard to imagine that the invisible world beneath the water could be more full of life than the beach. But it is. A bucket of water from the top layer of the open ocean can contain as much life, in its way, as the most crowded beach -- whether you measure that life by the number of creatures or by their amazing variety.

Long ago, in fact, life in the sea was the only kind of life on Earth.

And once upon a time, even longer ago, there was no sea on Earth and no life at all.

Nice Weather for Ducks

TODAY, ALMOST THREE-QUARTERS OF EARTH'S SURFACE is covered by ocean. But the water wasn't always there. The oceans were created in the longest rainstorm ever.

When Earth was a newborn planet, more than 4.5 billion years ago, it had no water, no air, no life. It was a spinning ball of glowing, molten rock that boiled and roiled like the inside of a volcano.

A thick layer of water vapor collected around Earth, but the heat pouring off the planet's surface kept it from turning into liquid water. Some of the water vapor was created by chemical reactions within Earth itself. Some may have come from icy comets that collided with Earth.

For half a billion years or more, Earth slowly cooled. The rock on the surface turned solid, and then cracked and buckled and folded as hot rock beneath pushed and stretched it. The water vapor in the atmosphere cooled, too, and did what it does today. It turned into rain.

Rain pelted down onto the cooling rocks year after year after year for thousands or, perhaps, millions of years. Water poured off the mountains and drained through the valleys. Trickles became streams, streams emptied into lakes, and lakes overflowed into great rivers. The water flowed to the lowest parts of Earth, gradually filling them up. By the time the rains slowed, at least three-quarters of the planet was covered with water. The oceans were born.

Life Happens

SOMETIME IN THE NEXT FEW HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF YEARS, something strange happened in those oceans. Life appeared.

The earliest fossils of living things date from about 3.5 billion years ago. They're big mounds called stromatolites, made of layers of rocky material alternating with layers of tiny, single-celled life forms called bacteria. Bacteria are so small that 50,000 of them could live in a single drop of water.

Bacteria may have been the largest living things on Earth for quite a long time, but they didn't leave much of a fossil record unless they massed together in a big mound. At some point, larger, single-celled organisms developed and evolved into creatures made up of many cells. But even after the creatures got bigger and more complex, they were still small and soft-bodied. So when they died, they were eaten by other creatures or they simply disintegrated.

When the main fossil record finally picked up again, though, it got really interesting.

Aliens in the Rocks

ABOUT 585 MILLION YEARS AGO, the oceans were home to bizarre life forms that left fossil imprints in rocks as far apart as the dry hills of inland Australia and a layered sea cliff in southern Newfoundland on Canada's east coast.

The life forms that made those imprints look like nothing on Earth today. Or maybe looks are deceiving. It's hard for scientists to tell exactly what a living creature looked like and how it lived when all they have is the faint tracing of a long-vanished body that was flattened beneath millions of years of rock layers.

These fossils all appear to come from soft-bodied life forms with no sign of shells or hard body coverings. Some are shaped like spindles on a spinning wheel, some like feathers, some like disks, and some like plants. One of the larger fossils looks like a long, thin Christmas tree.

Whatever these organisms were, they belong to the past. After them came what is sometimes called the Cambrian explosion -- a sudden burst of life that began in the oceans about 540 million years ago.

And that is where our story begins.

World of Water

SOME OF THE ANIMAL FAMILIES in this book live in water their whole lives, just as their ancestors did. In fact, for some of them, life is much the same as it was hundreds of millions of years ago. Others have been transformed by time and changes on Earth.

Some are land creatures whose ancestors were water dwellers. Some are even water dwellers whose ancestors once lived on land.

Some live between the worlds of land and water. Is the platypus a land creature or a water creature? Or maybe for the platypus, it doesn't matter.

Ducks and geese have gone a step further. They've found a way to live at the place where land, water, and air meet. So what ties them to their ancient Australian relative, nicknamed the Demon Duck of Doom, a giant, flightless bird that lived a very different life?

The thing that ties together all of these animals is their link with water. And that's a link we all share. To find out how, read on!

 

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Super Crocs and Monster Wings

Super Crocs and Monster Wings

Modern Animals' Ancient Past
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
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The World in Your Lunch Box

The World in Your Lunch Box

The Wacky History and Weird Science of Everyday Foods
by Claire Eamer
illustrated by Sa Boothroyd
edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover
tagged :
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Traitors' Gate

Traitors' Gate

and Other Doorways to the Past
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
tagged :
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Excerpt

Excerpt

Opening the Door

Traitors' Gate is a giant archway leading into the Tower of London. The Tower, a huge fortress that squats on the north bank of the River Thames, has served as royal palace, armory, prison, and many other things for more than nine centuries.

When the tide rolls up the Thames from the sea, water floods the archway and small boats can sail through to a stone wharf within the Tower's outer walls. In the days when the river carried much of London's traffic, Traitors' Gate was a handy way to carry cargo and people to the Tower.

Sometimes the people who entered through Traitors' Gate were prisoners -- important prisoners. During the 16th and early 17th centuries, state prisoners were often brought by boat to Traitors' Gate, led up the stone steps of the wharf, and locked in the Tower. Many died there, some by the executioner's ax.

Elizabeth Tudor, who became Queen Elizabeth I of England, stepped through Traitors' Gate twice and lived to tell the tale. The first time she entered in terror, the prisoner of her sister, Queen Mary. The second time she entered in triumph, a queen herself.

What's unusual is that both passages through that famous doorway were described in writing. History generally records what happens on one side or the other of a door, but rarely what happens in the doorway itself.

And that's a pity, because doors have a special magic -- the magic of potential. They can open in or out. They can hide or reveal. They can separate places and people or join them together. They can mark a passage from one way of life to another -- or from life to death.

When you open the door to your home, you touch the same surface and pass through the same space as family, friends, visitors -- and, perhaps, complete strangers who lived in the home before your time.

Think of how many people touch the doors and pass through the doorways of schools, stores, apartment blocks, and office buildings. Who might have stepped through the door of an old house or an ancient temple or a tumbledown barn? What were their lives like? What did they feel when they stood in that doorway?

Feelings are part of the magic of doorways. Think of stepping into a strange classroom on your first day in a new school. Or opening the door to your home after a long time away. Or crawling out through a tent flap into a glorious summer morning by a lake. Excitement, fear, relief, awe -- the emotions associated with a place start at the doorway.

In this book, you'll find an assortment of very different doors and doorways, from an oddly shaped opening in an old stone wall to a multistory gateway designed to frighten people. You'll meet some of the people who passed through these doorways or stood and gazed at them in awe, and you'll get a glimpse of their lives, on both sides of the door.

Just open the door and come on in!

 

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