Life in Ireland: A Short History of a Long Time


Conor W. O’Brien

April 2021

This is the story of life in Ireland – a story half a billion years in the making, from the first fossils to the present day.

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This is the story of life in Ireland – a story half a billion years in the making.

With its castles, crannogs and passage tombs, Ireland is a land where history looms large, but the saga of life on this island dates back millions of years before the first people set foot here.

In Life in Ireland, Conor W. O’Brien guides you on a safari through place and time, from the Jurassic Coast of Antrim to the great Ice Age bone-beds of Cork. Along the way, we’ll meet some of the astonishing creatures to have called Ireland home through the ages: shelled monsters; huge marine lizards; armoured dinosaurs; giant deer; mighty mammoths. Vital strands in the story of life on Earth have left their mark here, including some of the first creatures to crawl onto land or take to the wing.

This epic journey will take us from the first fossils to the present day. through it all, we’ll see how our wildlife has adapted to the human age and explore what the future might hold for life in Ireland.



Part I: From the Dawn to the Dinosaurs
The First Life in Ireland
Footprints in Stone: The Valentia Island Trackway
Sharks, Shells and Monsters: Carboniferous Ireland
Ireland’s Dinosaurs
The Sea Dragons of Ulster

Part II: The Beasts of Ice Age Ireland
The Coming of the Ice
Ice Age Ireland
One Big Tooth
The Giant Irish Deer
The Woolly Mammoth
Giant Goats and Reindeer: The Other Herbivores of Ice Age Ireland
The Predators of the Plains
The End of the Ice Age Giants

Part III: Life in the Human Age
The Coming of Man
To a Forest Primeval: Ireland’s Lost Woodlands
Life in the Long Grass: Ireland’s Farms
The Bogs and Mountains of Ireland
Life Under Lamplight: Ireland’s Urban Wildlife
Life Beneath the Waves
The Tragedy of the Great Auk

Back from the Brink: The Rewilding of Ireland
A New Frontier: Bringing Extinct Species Back to Life


ABOUT THE AUTHOR Conor W. O’Brien has been interested in wildlife and nature from a very early age, and it is a passion that has since taken him around the world. He’s a member of Birdwatch Ireland and has presented at member meetings of the Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT). His first book, Ireland through Birds: Journeys in Search of a Wild Nation, was shortlisted for Best-Irish Published Book at the 2019 An Post Irish Book Awards.

Praise for Life in Ireland

‘[O’Brien] has taken a passion for nature and turned it into an accessible, enjoyable and frequently surprising synopsis of evolution for which we have evidence in our rocks, caves, soils and bogs.’
Caroline O’Doherty, Irish Independent

‘[Conor W. O’Brien] is the Irish David Attenborough … His enthusiasm for his subject is electric’
Jacqueline Strawbridge, Irish Dail Mail

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