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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.
Today, any kid can rattle off the names of dozens of dinosaurs. But it took centuries of scientific effort—and a lot of luck—to discover and establish the diversity of dinosaur species we now know. How did we learn that Triceratops had three horns? Why don’t many paleontologists consider Brontosaurus a valid species? What convinced scientists that modern birds are relatives of ancient Velociraptor? In The Story of the Dinosaurs in 25 Discoveries, Donald R. Prothero tells the fascinating stories behind the most important fossil finds and the intrepid researchers who unearthed them. In twenty-five vivid vignettes, he weaves together dramatic tales of dinosaur discoveries with what modern science now knows about the species to which they belong. Prothero takes us from eighteenth-century sightings of colossal bones taken for biblical giants through recent discoveries of enormous predators even larger than Tyrannosaurus. He recounts the escapades of the larger-than-life personalities who made modern paleontology, including scientific rivalries like the nineteenth-century “Bone Wars.” Prothero also details how to draw the boundaries between species and explores debates such as whether dinosaurs had feathers, explaining the findings that settled them or keep them going. Throughout, he offers a clear and rigorous look at what paleontologists consider sound interpretation of evidence. An essential read for any dinosaur lover, this book teaches us to see an ancient world ruled by giant majestic creatures anew.
Every rock is a tangible trace of the earth’s past. The Story of the Earth in 25 Rocks tells the fascinating stories behind the discoveries that shook the foundations of geology. In twenty-five chapters—each about a particular rock, outcrop, or geologic phenomenon—Donald R. Prothero recounts the scientific detective work that shaped our understanding of geology, from the unearthing of exemplary specimens to tectonic shifts in how we view the inner workings of our planet. Prothero follows in the footsteps of the scientists who asked—and answered—geology’s biggest questions: How do we know how old the earth is? What happened to the supercontinent Pangea? How did ocean rocks end up at the top of Mount Everest? What can we learn about our planet from meteorites and moon rocks? He answers these questions through expertly chosen case studies, such as Pliny the Younger’s firsthand account of the eruption of Vesuvius; the granite outcrops that led a Scottish scientist to theorize that the landscapes he witnessed were far older than Noah’s Flood; the salt and gypsum deposits under the Mediterranean Sea that indicate that it was once a desert; and how trying to date the age of meteorites revealed the dangers of lead poisoning. Each of these breakthroughs filled in a piece of the greater puzzle that is the earth, with scientific discoveries dovetailing with each other to offer an increasingly coherent image of the geologic past. Summarizing a wealth of information in an entertaining, approachable style, The Story of the Earth in 25 Rocks is essential reading for the armchair geologist, the rock hound, and all who are curious about the earth beneath their feet.
Nothing fills us with a sense of wonder like fossils. What looks at first like a simple rock is in fact a clue that reveals the staggering diversity of ancient environments, the winding pathways of evolution, and the majesty of a vanished earth. But as much as one might daydream of digging a hole in the backyard and finding a Tyrannosaurus, only a few places contain these buried treasures, and when a scientist comes across a remnant of prehistoric life, great care must be taken. What do budding paleontologists need to know before starting their search? In Fantastic Fossils, Donald R. Prothero offers an accessible, entertaining, and richly illustrated guide to the paleontologist’s journey. He details the best places to look for fossils, the art of how to find them, and how to classify the major types. Prothero provides expert wisdom about typical fossils that an average person can hope to collect and how to hunt fossils responsibly and ethically. He also explores the lessons that both common and rarer discoveries offer about paleontology and its history, as well as what fossils can tell us about past climates and present climate change. Captivating illustrations by the paleoartist Mary Persis Williams bring to life hundreds of important specimens. Offering valuable lessons for armchair enthusiasts and paleontology students alike, Fantastic Fossils is an essential companion for all readers who have ever dreamed of going in search of traces of a lost world.
Major Events in the History of Life, present six chapters that summarize our understanding of crucial events that shaped the development of the earth's environment and the course of biological evolution over some four billion years of geological time. The subjects are covered by acknowledged leaders in their fields span an enormous sweep of biologic history, from the formation of planet Earth and the origin of living systems to our earliest records of human activity. Several chapters present new data and new syntheses, or summarized results of new types of analysis, material not usually available in current college textbooks.
A comprehensive analysis of insect evolution examines the relationships and evolution of each order of hexapods, as well as major episodes in the evolutionary history of insects, their living diversity, evolutionary relationships, major fossil deposits, and key episodes in insect evolution, all enhanced by hundreds of illustrations, photographs, and diagrams.
One of the leading textbooks in its field, Bringing Fossils to Life applies paleobiological principles to the fossil record while detailing the evolutionary history of major plant and animal phyla. It incorporates current research from biology, ecology, and population genetics, bridging the gap between purely theoretical paleobiological textbooks and those that describe only invertebrate paleobiology and that emphasize cataloguing live organisms instead of dead objects. For this third edition Donald R. Prothero has revised the art and research throughout, expanding the coverage of invertebrates and adding a discussion of new methodologies and a chapter on the origin and early evolution of life.

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