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The UK publication date for the Ancestor's Tale (2nd edition) is 28th April 2016. In the US, the book is published by Houghton Mifflin, and due for publication on September 6th, 2016.

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NB: currently only the first edition, read by Richard Dawkins and Lalla Ward.

New in the 2nd edition

The Ancestor's Tale is a pilgrimage through the history of life, comprising meeting (rendezvous) points, and tales told by the creatures encountered on this journey. Almost every page in the first edition has seen changes in the second edition, with well over 100 new studies taken into account. Major additions include six new tales and a number of extra prologues and epilogues to existing tales. Advances in DNA sequencing and analysis has led to considerable revisions to the tales previously told by mitochondrial Eve, the bonobo, the elephant bird, and the lungfish (now incorporated into The Coelacanth's Tale). Scientific advances have also led to two new rendezvous points, as well as the merging or exchanging of one or two chapters in the first edition.

You can read more about the changes in this edition in the preface, or you can read one of the new tales:

All the Tales

The Ancestor's Tale takes its inspiration from the Canterbury Tales. The history of life on earth, and the process of evolution is illuminated and explored in over 50 short tales, recounted by the following diverse and captivating collection of creatures.

Follow the links below to investigate the tales in-situ, on the tree of life.

  1. Tales of humans and our
    recent ancestors
    Eight tales of kinship, domestication, culture, human genetics, ancient DNA, fossils, brains & bipedality
  2. The Chimp’s Tale
    Picture of Pan troglodytesOn the rate of mutation in our DNA
  3. The Bonobo’s Tale
    Picture of Pan paniscusOn our genetic links to other animals
  4. The Gorilla’s Tale
    Picture of Gorilla gorillaOn our attitudes
    to other apes
  5. The Orangutan’s Tale
    Picture of Pongo pygmaeusOn parsimony and migration
  6. The Gibbon’s Tale
    Picture of Hylobates larHow evolutionary trees are constructed
  7. The Howler Monkey’s Tale
    Picture of Alouatta seniculusOn colour vision and the origin of genes
  8. The Aye-aye’s Tale
    Picture of Daubentonia madagascariensisOn Madagascar and island evolution
  9. The Colugo’s Tale
    Picture of Cynocephalus volansOn uncertainty in
    the tree of life
  10. The Mouse’s Tale
    Picture of Mus musculusThe analogy between DNA & computer code
  11. The Beaver’s Tale
    Picture of Castor fiberOn extended
    phenotypes
  12. The Hippo’s Tale
    Picture of Hippopotamus amphibiusOn unexpected evolutionary links
  13. The Seal’s Tale
    Picture of Mirounga leoninaOn breeding systems, size, and sex ratios
  14. The Sloth’s Tale
    Picture of Bradypus tridactylusOn continental drift and biogeography
  15. The Marsupial Mole’s Tale
    Picture of Notoryctes typhlopsA tale of convergent evolution
  16. The Duckbill’s Tale
    Picture of Ornithorhynchus anatinusOn brains and our perception of the world
  17. The Lava Lizard’s Tale
    Picture of Microlophus albemarlensisA tale of surrealism and frozen time
  18. The Galapagos Finch’s Tale
    Picture of Geospiza magnirostrisOn the speed of natural selection
  19. The Peacock’s Tale
    Picture of Pavo cristatusOn sexual selection and walking on two legs
  20. The Dodo’s Tale
    Picture of Raphus cucullatusOn flight, flightlessness, and islands
  21. The Elephant Bird’s Tale
    Picture of Aepyornis maximusA traditional hypothesis overturned
  22. The Salamander’s Tale
    Picture of Ensatina eschscholtziiOn discontinuity and
    the illusion of species
  23. The Narrow­mouth’s Tale
    Picture of Gastrophryne carolinensisOn isolation and its reinforcement
  24. The Axolotl’s Tale
    Picture of Ambystoma mexicanumOn development and neoteny
  25. The Lungfish’s Tale
    Picture of Neoceratodus forsteriOn the colonization
    of the land
  26. The Coelacanth’s Tale
    Picture of Latimeria chalumnaeOn ‘living fossils’ and hidden evolution
  27. The Leafy Sea Dragon’s Tale
    Picture of Phycodurus equesOn phenotypic
    plasticity
  28. The Pike’s Tale
    Picture of Esox luciusThe buoyant success
    of fish
  29. The Cichlid’s Tale
    Picture of Pundamilia nyerereiA tale of adaptive radiation
  30. The Blind Cave Fish’s Tale
    Picture of Astyanax mexicanusOn the reversibility
    of evolution
  31. The Flounder’s Tale
    Picture of Platichthys flesusOn design and imperfection
  32. The Lamprey’s Tale
    Picture of Lampetra fluviatilisOn gene trees and genome duplications
  33. The Lancelet’s Tale
    Picture of Branchiostoma lanceolatumHow living things
    cannot be ancestors
  34. The Ragworm’s Tale
    Picture of Nereis pelagicaOn the basic form of animals
  35. The Brine Shrimp’s Tale
    Picture of Artemia salinaOn behaviour, evolution &turning upside down
  36. The Leaf Cutter’s Tale
    Picture of Atta cephalotesOn agriculture and delayed gratification
  37. The Grass­hopper’s Tale
    Picture of Chorthippus brunneusOn the vexed topic
    of race
  38. The Fruit Fly’s Tale
    Picture of Drosophila melanogasterOn body patterning and HOX genes
  39. The Rotifer’s Tale
    Picture of Philodina roseolaOn the puzzle of sexual reproduction
  40. The Barnacle’s Tale
    Picture of Sacculina carciniOn weird wonders of the animal world
  41. The Velvet Worm’s Tale
    Picture of Peripatoides novaezealandiaeOn the Cambrian explosion
  42. The Jellyfish’s Tale
    Picture of Mastigias papuaThe allure of things we do not yet understand
  43. The Polypifer’s Tale
    Picture of Pocillopora damicornisOn communities of organisms and genes
  44. The Sponge’s Tale
    Picture of Euplectella aspergillumOn the origin
    of animals I
  45. The Choano­flagellate’s Tale
    Picture of Sphaeroeca volvoxOn the origin
    of animals II
  46. The Cauliflower’s Tale
    Picture of Brassica oleraceaOn networks to supply the body
  47. The Redwood’s Tale
    Picture of Sequoia sempervirensA tale about dating the past
  48. The Humped Bladderwort’s Tale
    Picture of Utricularia gibbaOn excess DNA in genomes
  49. The Mixotrich’s Tale
    Picture of Mixotricha paradoxaSymbiosis and the origin of complex life
  50. The Rhizobium’s Tale
    Picture of Rhizobium leguminosarumOn alleged unevolvability
  51. Taq’s Tale
    Picture of Thermus aquaticusA tale about the true diversity of life

Full contents

NB: items in bold are new or substantially changed since the first edition. Links will take you to the appropriate place on the tree of life.

Preface to the Second Edition

The Conceit of Hindsight

The General Prologue

  1. 0 All Humankind
    • The Tasmanian’s Tale
    • Epilogue to the Tasmanian’s Tale
    • Prologue to the Farmer’s Tale
    • The Farmer’s Tale
    • The Cro-Magnon’s Tale
  2. Archaic Homo Sapens
    • Prologue to Eve’s Tale
    • Eve’s Tale
    • Epilogue to Eve’s Tale
    • Prologue to the Denisovan’s Tale
    • The Denisovan’s Tale
    • Epilogue to the Denisovan’s Tale
  3. Ergasts
    • The Ergast’s Tale
  4. Habilines
    • The Handyman’s Tale
  5. Ape-men
    • Ardi’s Tale
    • Epilogue to Ardi’s Tale
  6. 1 Chimpanzees
  7. 2 Gorillas
  8. 3 Orang Utans
  9. 4 Gibbons
  10. 5 Old World Monkeys
  11. 6 New World Monkeys
  12. 7 Tarsiers
  13. 8 Lemurs, Bushbabies, and their kin
  14. The Great Cretacious Catastrophe
  15. 9, 10 Colugos and Tree Shrews
  16. 11 Rodents and Rabbitkind
  17. 12 Laurasiatheres
  18. 13 Xenarthrans and Afrotheres
  19. 14 Marsupials
  20. 15 Monotremes
  21. Mammal-like Reptiles
  22. 16 Sauropsids
  23. 17 Amphibians
  24. 18 Lungfish
  25. 19 Coelacanths
  26. 20 Ray-finned Fish
  27. 21 Sharks and their kin
  28. 22 Lampreys and Hagfish
  29. 23 Sea squirts
  30. 24 Lancelets
  31. 25 Ambulacrarians
  32. 26 Protostomes
  33. 27 Acoelomorph Flatworms
  34. 28 Cnidarians
  35. 29 Ctenophores
  36. 30 Placozoans
  37. 31 Sponges
  38. 32 Choanoflagellates
  39. 33 Filasterea
  40. 34 Drips
  41. 35 Fungi
  42. 36 Uncertain
  43. 37 Amoebozoans
  44. 38 Light Harvesters and their kin
  45. The Great Historic Rendezvous
  46. 39 Archaea
  47. 40 Eubacteria
    • The Rhizobium’s Tale
    • Taq’s Tale
  48. CANTERBURY
  49. THE HOST’S RETURN
  50. i Further Reading
  51. ii Notes to the Phylogenies and Reconstructions
  52. iii Bibliography
  53. iv IllustrationCredits
  54. v Index