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The Evolution and Extinction of the Dinosaurs

4.2 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521444965
ISBN-10: 0521444969
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This book treads the line between a scholarly presentation and a readable popular account; its intended use as a textbook for a college-level course is reflected in the highlighting of key concepts, the inclusion of a bibliography with each chapter, and a text packed to capacity with information since the authors hope to present a complete overview of the state of dinosaur science. This presentation succeeds well in two ways: first, in giving an idea of the scientific process by which paleontologists learn, share, and build on information and, second, in explaining background concepts in biology. Both authors are authorities in the field (Weishampel edited the standard reference Dinosauria, LJ 3/15/91) and definitely know their stuff. Challenging but very well written and informative.?Amy Brunvand, Univ. of Utah Lib., Salt Lake City
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Such is the popularity of dinosaurs that an intended college text will probably find even elementary schoolers hot to devour it. Acknowledging this, Fastovsky and Weishampel strive to write as accessibly as possible while also discussing "dinosaurs as professionals understand them." They succeed wonderfully, and the copious illustrations and their presentation of the ancient creatures within the overall history of Earth's biosphere make their effort more than a gallery of great beasts that will please only the kids. Good taxonomic and general subject indexing ensure their text a job in many ready reference collections, too. So consider at least two copies. Ray Olson

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 479 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (March 29, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521444969
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521444965
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 1.4 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,369,541 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I've read several dinosaur books and I've generally found them to be very good. This one, along with "The Complete Dinosaur", ranks as one of my favorites. The reason I was interested in this book was that I was looking for something that focused on the evolution of dinosaurs and how the various taxa of dinosaurs related to each other. I was also looking for something at an intermediate level. This book exceeded my expectations on all fronts.

The first two chapters mainly covered background material such as geological time scales, isotopic dating and fossilization. The next two introduced some concepts of evolution (not including natural selection, an understanding of this is presumed) and a very high level view of chordates. The discussion of clade diagrams was very through.

After a chapter on the origin of dinosaurs, the book goes on devotes the next several chapters to describing a wide variety of dinosaur taxa and how they are related to each other. The chapters are grouped into parts, each part starts off with some high level discussion of a taxon. Then the individual chapters go on to elaborate the points by describing the taxa within the taxon. The chapters usually start with a description of the taxa's anatomy, distribution and behavior. Typically a fairly coarse grained clade diagram is presented early and more fine grained diagrams are presented as the chapter continues. The characteristics that distinguish one taxa from another are also described. The material isn't just presented as facts, it is justified by evidence from the fossil record. I liked the level of detail the authors typically chose, however someone else may want more or less.

The final two chapters of the theropod part deal with the evolution of birds.
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Format: Hardcover
As an avid dinosaur buff, this undergraduate level textbook is a mandatory part of one's collection. The text is very readable yet complete, filling a void between child-oriented dinosaur books and books written for professional paleontologists. I must confess I could not put the book down. Although it is several hundred pages in length, I read the book in less than a week. Topics range from basic dinosaur paleontology to special subjects such as the evolutionary relationship between dinosaurs and birds. If you are a dino-phile, this textbook is a must-read.
Brett J. Guinn, MD
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Format: Hardcover
"Dinosaur!" The word still makes children's faces bright with excitement. "Can we go to the museum, Dad?" - and a golf game is set aside. The authors note how pervasive the dinosaur has become in our society. We live in "dinosaur-crazy times with documentaries, colouring books and films - "we have thrice feasted on Jurassic Park movies". The authors feel this familiarity is all to the good - we learn something of Nature's ways from some of this exposure. They want us to take the next step and learn something of what the professional paleontologist does to bring the wealth of information about dinosaurs to our ken. We also need to understand what conditions prevailed while dinosaurs dominated the planet for 160 million years. That's a real success story and it deserves our attention.

In presenting their story of these impressive animals, the authors start with the general environment. Dating rocks is a fundamental aspect of how dinosaurs developed over time. The explain the science of "chronostratigraphy" using the classical examples of layered rock and moving on to how radioactive isotopes provide dating. They portray what an organism goes through in the process of fossilisation, and how fortunate we are to have anything to assess. Continental drift, which at once complicates and explains what would otherwise appear as anomolies, adds background. Climate is a further tool to explain how the creatures studied lived at the time.

With this background provided, they move on to depict the origin of dinosaurs. It's not a simple picture, as these "terrible lizards" didn't engage in a "takeover" of the planet as a given. It was a long, slow process from small beginnings. The first fossils, named by Darwin's major nemesis, Richard Owen, were an enigma.
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Format: Hardcover
I cannot say enough good things about this text! It covers the bulk of the dinosaur research up to the time that writing of the book ended and does so in a fairly unjudgmental fashion. It makes a point to show the multiple views of the arguments found within its covers. The authors' writing is also in a style that encourages the reader to continue reading, and is quite lively in places which gives new "spring" to the reader's "steps" as they journey through.
This book starts by introducing the reader to fossils and their collecting. It then sets the stage of "when" the book is speaking of so as to aid the reader's understanding of the subject. In setting this "when" the book discusses subjects like plate tectonics, stratigraphy and climatology. It then explains about how paleontology classifies creatures and a bit about organic evolution. After this the book talks of the relationships between the various animals out in the world which have backbones, collectively called vertebrates. This is the first four chapters and 94 pages setting the stage for the reader. Some may describe this as "boring" but it is necessary for a greater understanding of the dinosaur section of the text. In chapter five we are introduced to the origin of dinosaurs both as animals in the Mesozoic Time and in modern science in the 19th Century. This ends Part I of the text.
Parts II & III, 8 chapters and 216 pages, are where all the dinosaur lovers want to be - the parts that actually discuss the various types of dinosaurs. Part II talks of Ornithischia or "bird-hipped" dinosaurs while Part III is about Saurischia or "lizard-hipped" dinosaurs.
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