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Greenhouse of the Dinosaurs: Evolution, Extinction, and the Future of Our Planet Hardcover – July 1, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0231146609 ISBN-10: 0231146604

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (July 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231146604
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231146609
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,866,355 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Prothero, a prolific paleontologist (From Greenhouse to Icehouse) at Occidental College, says the goal for his new book is simply to inject the human side of the profession into the story of the research topics he has worked on during his 40-year career—to show science as a human quest, not just dry conclusions. While the goal is admirable, the result is disappointing, largely because, unlike his previous books, this one doesn't have a central theme: it touches on a range of questions paleontologists have addressed and tentatively answered, such as how dinosaurs could have lived in the Earth's polar regions (as fossil evidence suggests). Prothero's constant shifting of focus makes it difficult to grasp all of the technical content, while the overwhelming minutiae he provides makes you feel like you are viewing an endless series of photographs from a friend's summer vacation. While small sections are powerful—such as a discussion of how global warming might paradoxically trigger the next ice age and do so incredibly rapidly—the book never gels into a coherent whole. Photos, illus. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Prothero has woven together a gripping tale that will fascinate readers with many levels of expertise.

(Fossil News)

Greenhouse of the Dinosaurs should be on the suggested reading list for any undergraduate interested in pursuing paleontology, and as a paleobiological statement, shows that paleontology is more than (fossilized) sticks and stones.

(Geology Today 1900-01-00)

...this is a very enriching, stimulating, and, of course, enjoyable reading.

(Zentralblatt fur Geologie und Palaontologie 1900-01-00)

More About the Author

Donald R. Prothero has taught geology for over 33 years as Professor of Geology at Occidental College in Los Angeles, and Lecturer in Geobiology at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, and currently at Pierce College in Woodland Hills, CA. He earned M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. degrees in geological sciences from Columbia University in 1982, and a B.A. in geology and biology (highest honors, Phi Beta Kappa) from the University of California, Riverside. He is currently the author, co-author, editor, or co-editor of 33 books and over 250 scientific papers, including five leading geology textbooks and three trade books as well as edited symposium volumes and other technical works. He is on the editorial board of Skeptic magazine, and in the past has served as an associate or technical editor for Geology, Paleobiology and Journal of Paleontology. He is a Fellow of the Geological Society of America, the Paleontological Society, and the Linnaean Society of London, and has also received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Science Foundation. He has served as the Vice President of the Pacific Section of SEPM (Society of Sedimentary Geology), and five years as the Program Chair for the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. In 1991, he received the Schuchert Award of the Paleontological Society for the outstanding paleontologist under the age of 40. He has also been featured on several television documentaries, including episodes of Paleoworld (BBC), Prehistoric Monsters Revealed (History Channel), Entelodon and Hyaenodon (National Geographic Channel) and Walking with Prehistoric Beasts (BBC).

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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See all 10 customer reviews
Still, I think this is quite a work and something to throw on the fire if one is tempted to debate a doctrinaire Global-Warming-Denier.
James Prothero
Therefore, I would still rate this book at 5 stars due to the quality of detail and history of an extremely important and timely subject despite the small font size.
For anyone interested in a career as a research scientist this book is a must-read and yet is still well worth picking up for the science-minded layman.
Joseph Iacovino

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Dr. John W. Rippon VINE VOICE on October 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Greenhouse of the Dinosaurs is a meaningless title. The dinosaurs are long since gone and the major portion of this book deals with the dating of the dramatic change from the Eocene hot greenhouse earth to the cold Oligocene snow ball earth. A better title would be "Greenhouse after the Dinosaurs (and a clutter of other unrelated things)". This volume seems to have been written with no master plan or aim. It is a collection of after thoughts, anecdotes and dropped sections from the authors voluminous and generally top grade other writings. That is what is so frustrating in trying to review the present volume. Some sections are excellent and relevant to understanding questions of the day in evolutionary biology and paleogeology. These include one of the best discussions yet of "Punk Eek" puctuated equilibrium and it's tremendous effect on evolutionary theory today, plus a meaningful and incisive examination of the events in the "last days" of the dinosaurs and the impact of the bolide out of the sky on the Cretaceous Tertiary Extiction, together with a fine and comprehensible presentation on the revolution in classic taxonomic methodologies brought about by the "invasion" of the standard historic principles by the new field of cladistics. All these sections are presented with a history of the individuals involved, "the Young Turks vs. the Old Guard", the personalities of the players often with the authors personal obervations. There is so much good information and insightful observation here that makes the book worthwhile reading through more than once. But there is also a lot of clutter; the search for paleomagnetic dates and who made the coffee on that trip gets to be a little tedious. This along with other side issues seems like deliberate filler. Yes but --I'm glad I have the scholarly volume warts and all.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A. Kozak on August 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Prothero has done it again - by adding personal stories, opinions, and photos, he takes a comprehensive discussion of the science around climate change & extinction and makes it fun to read! I must disclose that Don is a personal friend of mine, and I was lucky enough to work with him in the field several summers collecting paleomag samples. I can say that Don's style, which is so well characterized in his book, is what got me into geology as a profession.

Don's encyclopedic knowledge of his subjects lets him show how a topic is connected to other topics, and throw in the spice of "behind the scenes" trivia as well. I never fail to be amused (and a little horrified) at how the insanely competitive personalities of the early 20th-century fossil collectors in the western US defined paleontological study for the rest of the century! But Prothero never leaves you scratching your head; his explanations are clear, and include the actual data needed to draw conclusions (my pet peeve with many pop-science books these days.)

One thing Don makes clear is that science can be messy, and our understanding of past extinction & climate change episodes is far from complete. What we do know, however, is critical for confronting the human-induced warming we are experiencing now on planet Earth.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Brian Switek on July 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover
During the first Congressional hearing on the IPCC report on human-induced climate change in 2007 Republican Representative Dana Rohrabacher floated a rather unusual idea. Citing warmer global climates of the distant past, like that which dominated the Eocene about 56 to 34 million years ago, Rohrbacher implied that the current warming trend was just the symptom of a natural phenomenon. If past warming events were triggered by unknown causes, Rohrabacher suggested "dinosaur farts" as the cause of the Eocene hothouse, then perhaps present rises in temperatures had nothing at all to do with human activities.

For years anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming critics have claimed that what we are going through now is just part of a cycle that has been going on for millions of years. It's not our fault and there's nothing we can do to stop it, they say, so we might as well kick back with some umbrella drinks and enjoy the endless summer. This logic might comfort politicians with oil company money lining their pockets, but it just isn't so. As paleontologist Donald Prothero points out in his forthcoming book (due out in late June), Greenhouse of the Dinosaurs, studying the climates of the past only bolsters the case that humans are altering the global environment in dramatic ways.

As the old uniformitarian saying goes "The present is the key to the past", but the converse is also true. By studying ancient climates and environments we can learn something about how the gases in the atmosphere, the constant shifting of the continents, and the paths of ocean currents influence the atmosphere.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Christopher J. Norris on August 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The title is probably too "pop" for a book that treats fossils and magnetic dating in such detail. But I was able to follow along as a mechanical engineer, the sure sign of good authorship when a nonspecialist understands the topic afterwards. The description of a much warmer world where the poles were tropical was especially good -- I did not realize that the equatorial regions were not much hotter and had never considered that it was still dark for 6 months above the Arctic Circle. It was also surprising to find out that there is not universal agreement that an impact caused the instantaneous extinction of all the dinosaurs. Is this similar to the "unanimous" scientific agreement that global warming is a dire immediate threat?
The final chapter on the climate change "emergency" was unconvincing. The author just spent a whole book convincing us that for much of its history the Earth was naturally warmer and the atmosphere sometimes contained ten times the CO2 it does now. Natural changes in the orbit and inclination of Earth and continental drift have plunged us into ice ages far more challenging to life than anything contemplated by melting even all the existing ice caps. So how is it that a scientist so well educated in the long history of the planet can underestimate human adaptability and overestimate our power over nature so much?
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