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Dawn of the Dinosaurs: Life in the Triassic (Life of the Past) Hardcover – October 26, 2006

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Dawn of the Dinosaurs: Life in the Triassic (Life of the Past) + Gaining Ground, Second Edition: The Origin and Evolution of Tetrapods (Life of the Past) + Earth before the Dinosaurs (Life of the Past)
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Editorial Reviews


"Forget Jurassic Park―the really interesting dinosaur story happened during the 'Triassic Park' era, a period 251–199 million years ago that followed life's biggest extinction event. If you want to know the whys and wherefores, this is the book for you..." ―BBC Wildlife

"... [T]here is a widespread perception that most Triassic terrestrial environments were parched deserts that were almost devoid of life.... Nick Fraser's book is a welcome antidote to this situation, providing the most comprehensive account of life, and death, in the Triassic that is currently available to a popular audience." ―Geological Magazine, Volume 146/1 - 2009

"Fraser (curator, vertebrate paleontology, Virginia Museum of Natural History) has prepared a serious work on Triassic paleontology... A refreshing approach in a market saturated with 'just so' stories and sanitized tales of evolution." ―Choice

"The text, by Nicholas Fraser... pulls off the balancing act between providing reliable information and a comprehensible story that is easily understood by non-academics.... [an} impressive book." ―Lab Times

From the Publisher

2007 AAUP Public and Secondary School Library Selection

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Product Details

  • Series: Life of the Past
  • Hardcover: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press; First Edition edition (October 26, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0253346525
  • ISBN-13: 978-0253346520
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.8 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,290,583 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in 1956, Nick Fraser became fascinated with the natural world at a very early age. After receiving his PhD. in Geology from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland in 1984, Nick spent the next six years at Cambridge University as a fellow of Girton College studying Triassic reptiles. In 1990 he became the Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Virginia Museum of Natural History (VMNH) in Martinsville, Virginia. In 2007 he moved back to Scotland where he is now Keeper of Natural Sciences at National Museums Scotland in Edinburgh.

His research program centers on terrestrial vertebrate faunal change across the Triassic-Jurassic boundary. Over the past few years Nick has been collaborating with a number of colleagues on various aspects of Triassic faunas and floras worldwide. He is the author of numerous scientific articles that have appeared in peer-reviewed journals.

Nick is very interested in public education. For ten years (from 1998- 2007) he took teachers, students and other volunteers to the badlands of Bighorn County, Wyoming where he was excavating a very extensive Jurassic dinosaur bone bed. Most recently he has been working on Triassic terrestrial deposits in Liaoning Province, China, together with colleagues at the National Geological Museum, Beijing.

Nick currently serves as editor of the memoirs series for the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology and the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

74 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Edward F. Strasser on November 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Based on the product page, I couldn't be sure this book wasn't just another dinosaur picture book. But Douglas Fraser specializes in Triassic vertebrates, so I figured he would include some solid information. Dawn of the Dinosaurs exceeded my hopes. The focus is on vertebrates and there are descriptions of many of them, but plants, invertebrates, the physical environment, and climate are also covered.

Fraser opens by describing the early Triassic landscape. It is often said that the Triassic was hot and arid, but Fraser also tells of more hospitable environments, some home to amphibians and crocodile-like animals. There is an overview of the animals, especially the vertebrates, and the plants that supported them. The rest of the book goes chronologically through the Triassic, with sections devoted to various geographic locations in each period.

There are many animals named here, far more that a reasonable person can memorize. My approach was not to try to remember names, but to get an idea of the diversity in the various environments. It is necessary, however, to know some of the groups of animals. For example, the ornithodira were the pterosaurs and dinosaurs and their unique common ancestors. To keep track of these I looked up some in Google, and I printed off cladograms from [..]

There is quite a bit of specialized vocabulary, especially regarding vertebrate anatomy and the time divisions within the Triassic. Some of this is found in the glossary and in the appendices. I suggest that you go to the appendices before reading the book and make sure you are familiar with the material. I also found myself looking up a number of words on the web.

Despite the specialized vocabulary, I would not say this is an advanced book.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Calvin Olson on May 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The creatures of the Jurassic and Cretaceous-the dinosaurs we are most familiar with-are those we most encounter in books. There are few that deal with the Triassic landscape and its beasts.

Nicholas Fraser has created, within the covers of this book, a veritable Triassic Park for the reader to wander through. Within the 307 pages of this book are numerous line drawings, color photographs of fossil impressions, and color paintings that restore the animals to life and place them in a natural setting that allow you to explore their world in your imagination.

This is not, however, a children's book. It explores the natural world through its geology, climate, and animal and plant life. It has appendices giving some of the geologic correlation charts, an overview of sedimentation, basic taxonomy (the new cladistics, of course), and very simple vertebrate anatomy. It also has a short glossary. But, these still do not give everything needed to read the text easily. The book expects some familiarity with basic geology, zoology, and botany. An overview of the history of life and general paleontology is also helpful, but not necessary.

With warnings in mind, you do not have to have extensive knowledge to enjoy this book. The pictures alone are worth the price of the book. Even those readers who have extensive knowledge of the period will love reading this book. Its chronological approach to covering the organisms through early, middle and late Triassic time makes it read like an enchanting story.

If you really want to know about and understand the early history of the dinosaurs and their contemporaries, you definitely want this book.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Tim F. Martin on April 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
_Dawn of the Dinosaurs_ by Nicholas Fraser is a popular overview of the first period of the Mesozoic Era, the Triassic Period. The author mostly concentrated on the various vertebrate animals that existed during this period though spent a good deal of time on the ecology of various locales as well as invertebrate life and plants. The text is quite readable by the interested layperson though one may have to consult the book's glossary a number of times; at the very least it can be seen as something of a vocabulary builder, as I learned such words as edentulous (lacking teeth) and allochthonous (basically a fossil formed in a place other than where the organism once lived). The anatomical terms like proximal tarsals and elongate ulnare though I had less success with, despite the glossary and the appendix discussing tetrapod anatomy.

Still, the book did introduce me to many animals I knew nothing about and given that I am something of an amateur paleontology buff that is saying something. Also, even if one didn't read a single word of text I would definitely say go and get this book owing to the simply spectacular and gorgeous artwork of Douglas Henderson.

Part one consisted of three chapters and looked at the Early Triassic, setting the stage for the period's climate, geography, geology, fauna, and flora. The world was quite a bit different 240 million years ago; there was only one continent (Pangaea), no polar ice caps, and the world's dry zones were on the equator (not today, where they are centered 30 degrees north and south). Though there is still considerable debate, a megamonsoon system seems to have dominated the world's climate.
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