Every fossil tells a story. Best-selling paleontology author Donald R. Prothero describes twenty-five famous, beautifully preserved fossils in a gripping scientific history of life on Earth. Recounting the adventures behind the discovery of these objects and fully interpreting their significance within the larger fossil record, Prothero creates a riveting history of life on our planet.Read more...
Every fossil tells a story. Best-selling paleontology author Donald R. Prothero describes twenty-five famous, beautifully preserved fossils in a gripping scientific history of life on Earth. Recounting the adventures behind the discovery of these objects and fully interpreting their significance within the larger fossil record, Prothero creates a riveting history of life on our planet.
The twenty-five fossils portrayed in this book catch animals in their evolutionary splendor as they transition from one kind of organism to another. We witness extinct plants and animals of microscopic and immense size and thrilling diversity. We learn about fantastic land and sea creatures that have no match in nature today. Along the way, we encounter such fascinating fossils as the earliest trilobite, "Olenellus"; the giant shark "Carcharocles"; the "fishibian" "Tiktaalik"; the "Frogamander" and the "Turtle on the Half-Shell"; enormous marine reptiles and the biggest dinosaurs known; the first bird, Archaeopteryx; the walking whale "Ambulocetus"; the gigantic hornless rhinoceros" Paraceratherium," the largest land mammal that ever lived; and the Australopithecus nicknamed "Lucy," the oldest human skeleton. We meet the scientists and adventurers who pioneered paleontology and learn about the larger intellectual and social contexts in which their discoveries were made. Finally, we find out where to see these splendid fossils in the world's great museums.
Ideal for all who love prehistoric landscapes and delight in the history of science, this book makes a treasured addition to any bookshelf, stoking curiosity in the evolution of life on Earth.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-06-22
- Reviewer: Staff
Despite his title, paleontologist Prothero (Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters) eschews a narrow focus on 25 critical fossils to instead examine sets of fossils that demonstrate the bridges between divergent groups. As he makes clear, “fossils that do not fit into modern groups, but are squarely between them, are true transitional fossils, sometimes called (improperly) ‘missing links.’ ” Prothero presents a wealth of information about the origins of various lineages. In each case, he demonstrates the depth of the fossil record and shows that scientists have developed a deep understanding of the evolutionary changes that have occurred over time. At the same time, Prothero points out that there is still much to be learned in situations where the evidence is not completely clear. After demonstrating “that snakes did evolve from four-legged ancestors,” he notes that “the mystery of the nearest relatives of snakes is still unresolved.” The text’s only flaw is Prothero’s assertion, in the face of ample recent genomics research demonstrating otherwise, that “about 60 to 80 percent of our DNA is ‘junk’ that is never read or used, but is carried around passively generation after generation.” Still, this is an accessible, well-done book that will better enable general readers to understand the fossil record and how paleontologists interpret it. (Sept.)