It is a biological inevitability that just about every living organism will die—it's the how and the when that are up for debate. Some species barely make it to adulthood, while others go on for centuries. Ninety-nine percent of all species have already gone extinct. In nature, death is everywhere.
One might ask why this is so. After all, the ability to survive seems on the surface to be a pretty desirable trait to evolve. If something is around longer, wouldn't that give it more chances to reproduce? Could a species evolve to live longer and longer—until, eventually, it can live forever? On an even more fundamental level, how well defined are our basic notions of life and death to begin with?
Jules Howard—a zoologist, writer, and broadcaster based in the UK—tackles some of these questions in his new book, Death on Earth: Adventures in Evolution and Mortality. I reached out to him and we talked about it via Skype.