‘Science has continued to make new discoveries that have illuminated and amplified the history of nature.’ David Attenborough introduces the new edition of Life on Earth.


I still recall, with great clarity, the very first time I went to the tropics. Stepping out of the plane and into the muggy, perfumed air of West Africa was like walking into a steam laundry. Moisture hung in the atmosphere so heavily that my skin and shirt were soaked within minutes. A hedge of hibiscus bordered the airport buildings. Sunbirds, glittering with green and blue iridescence, played around it, darting from one scarlet blossom to another, hanging on beating wings as they probed for nectar. Only after I had watched them for some time did I notice, clasping a branch within the hedge, a chameleon, motionless except for its goggling eyes, which swivelled to follow every passing in-sect.

Wherever I looked, I found a prodigality of pattern and colour for which I was quite unprepared.

It was a revelation of the splendour and fecundity of the natural world from which I have never recovered. Since then, I have managed, one way or another, to get back to the tropics many times. Usually my purpose has been to make a film about some corner of that infinitely varied world. So, I have had the luck to find and film rare creatures that few outsiders have seen in the wild, and to gaze on some of the most marvellous spectacles that the wild places of the world have to offer.

Initially, the films we made tried to document the lives of particular animals.

But then the idea formed in my mind that a group of us might make a series of films that portrayed animals in a slightly different way. Our subject would be not only natural history in the sense that those two words are normally used, but the history of nature. We would try to survey the whole animal kingdom and consider each great group of animals in the light of the part it has played in the long drama of life from its beginnings until today. This book originated from the three years of travelling and research that went into the making of those films.

Since this book was first written, science of course has continued to make new discoveries that have illuminated and amplified the history of nature.

New species – some living, some fossil – have been discovered that link different groups. One whole new branch of science has in recent years spread a great deal of light on the history of life – molecular genetics. Such new insights and discoveries will be described in this new edition, to bring this epic story of Life on Earth right up to date.

179643-fc50A new, beautifully illustrated edition of David Attenborough’s groundbreaking Life on Earth.

David Attenborough’s unforgettable meeting with gorillas became an iconic moment for millions of television viewers. Life on Earth, the series and accompanying book, fundamentally changed the way we view and interact with the natural world setting a new benchmark of quality, influencing a generation of nature lovers.

Told through an examination of animal and plant life, this is an astonishing celebration of the evolution of life on earth, with a cast of characters drawn from the whole range of organisms that have ever lived on this planet. Attenborough’s perceptive, dynamic approach to the evolution of millions of species of living organisms takes the reader on an unforgettable journey of discovery from the very first spark of life to the blue and green wonder we know today.

Now, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the book’s first publication, David Attenborough has revisited Life on Earth, completely updating and adding to the original text, taking account of modern scientific discoveries from around the globe. He has chosen beautiful, completely new photography, helping to illustrate the book in a much greater way than was possible forty years ago.

This special anniversary edition provides a fitting tribute to an enduring wildlife classic, destined to enthral the generation who saw it when first published and bring it alive for a whole new generation.

Life on Earth is out now in hardback and published in paperback on 16th May 2019.