Fascinating stories and stunning photos of species hundreds of millions of years old

Kimberly Ridley’s book, Extreme Survivors, Animals That Time Forgot, published in November by Tilbury House Publishers, is fascinating, full of stunning photos and stories about species that have somehow survived for hundreds of millions of years. I’ve poured through the book three times so far, captivated by the photos.

Did you know that some dinosaurs became birds?

I certainly wish I’d caught a Lungfish, considering that species has been on earth for 300 million years! Perhaps I should have been fishing with a velvet worm, which has been around for 500 million years. Of course Lungfish can survive for more than three years without eating, so catching them on a baited hook would be pretty darn difficult.

And I thought humans were an old species, but we’re fairly new, having been here for only 200,000 years.

There’s a debate going on about the most ancient animals, currently thought to be sponges, 600 million years old. But some now think comb jellies may have evolved earlier than sponges. And wait til you see the photos of comb jellies – they look transparent.

One of the oddest looking creatures is the tardigrade (it looked like a pillow with legs, to me). They can survive boiling, freezing, and being crushed. In 2007, scientists launched tardigrade tuns into space on a satellite. They survived the vacuum of space and intense radiation that would kill any other animal. And they can live up to 150 years.

One of the interesting bits of information is that scientists are learning things from extreme survivors that may help us treat diseases such as cancer, fight antibiotic-bacteria, develop crops better adapted to a changing climate, and tackle other challenges.

For example, sponges make thousands of different chemicals to protect themselves from predators, bacteria, and viruses. Biomedical researchers have already developed several new medicines from chemicals made by sponges, and continue their studies hoping to create better antibiotics and find new treatments for cancer.

And I’ll bet you didn’t know, if you had a shot, stiches, or surgery, that you needed to thank horseshoe crabs for helping keep you safe!

This book will entertain both adults and children. Check it out at www.tilburyhouse.com.

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.