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Vertebrate Palaeontology [Paperback]

Michael J. Benton
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

December 10, 2004 0632056371 978-0632056378 3
Vertebrate Palaeontology is a complete, up-to-date history of the evolution of vertebrates. The third edition of this popular text has been extensively revised to incorporate the latest research, including new material from North and South America, Australia, Europe, China, Africa and Russia.
  • Highlights astonishing new discoveries including new dinosaurs and Mesozoic birds from China
  • features a new chapter on how to study fossil vertebrates
  • provides an increased emphasis on the cladistic framework with cladograms set apart from the body of the text and full lists of diagnostic characters
  • includes new molecular evidence on early mammal diversification
  • new features aid study including new functional and developmental feature spreads, key questions and extensive references to useful web sites
  • strong phylogenetic focus making it an up-to-date source of the latest broad-scale systematic data on vertebrate evolution

To access the artwork from the book, please visit:

An Instructor manual CD-ROM for this title is available. Please contact our Higher Education team at for more information.

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Vertebrate Palaeontology + Invertebrate Palaeontology & Evolution
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Editorial Reviews


"This book is a 'must' for a biology or geology student and researcher concerned by palaeontology. It perfectly succeeds in showing how palaeobiological information is obtained." (Zentrallblatt fur Geologie und Palaontologie, 2007)

"This fine textbook by Michael Benton (Department of Geology University of Bristol) sets the standard in the field - a well-developed and wonderfully researched book that will serve the student community in the study of Palaeontology for years to come." (Electric Review.Net, September 2004)

"This is the third edition of a very long running (1990) and highly successful textbook in the field of vertebrate invaluable aid to those who wish to know more about vertebrate fossils. There are plenty of well-drawn labelled diagrams. The text is clear and the book superbly planned and ordered...A classic textbook..." (Down to Earth, December 2004)

[The] simple language and general attitude make it accessible even to readers not familiar with paleontology at all. ...the author has succeeded in making it as comprehensive as possible in respect to such complex factual material. In few other books is the biological diversity of vertebrates presented in such an elegant and precise manner.... These parts of the book impressively show the unusual extent of the author's knowledge. Michael Benton is an expert on the early evolution of dinosaurs, but his expertise in a range of problems of vertebrate paleontology is astonishing... No doubt that Michael Benton's professional review of the evolution of the most complex of animals has to be placed high on the evolutionary tree of university textbooks. There is probably no better, more comprehensive and up-to-date source..."
(Journal of Sedimentary Research, March 2005)

"...a textbook aimed at enthusiasts and is well laid out and the clear narrative style makes it accessible and easily read. I am sure anyone who wishes to learn more about the history of vertebrates will find it a very useful and informative book with much of interest to be gleaned." (Glasgow Naturalist, June 2006)


"Mike Benton's textbook on vertebrate palaeontology has been an aclaimed success since its first edition in has now undergone very substantial further revision for its newly published third edition...This new edition reflects the enormous upsurge in research and results for vertebrate palaeontology over just the past ten years, in which Mike himself has played a leading role...a one-stop buy for all those who would like a good background perspective and summary of vertebrate palaeontology...a book which I can strongly recommend."
–Robin Cocks, GA Magazine of the Geologists' Association, March 2005

"This volume... is on the way to becoming a classic. This third also all one could hope for in a field that is changing so fast... The interest of the book is very much in the diversity of approaches used...This book is certainly the best introduction to the palaeontology of the vertebrates which is currently available, and its potential readership clearly passes beyond the student world alone. It has been translated into many languages, and one can only hope that a French edition will also see the light of day."
–Professor Eric Buffetaut (Paris), Géochronique, June 2005

Product Details

  • Paperback: 472 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 3 edition (December 10, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0632056371
  • ISBN-13: 978-0632056378
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 7.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #250,375 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful and interesting December 17, 2000
Benton manages to write a thorough text on various vertebrate groups and their evolutionary trends, mentioning specific important species and basic morphology without making the book as dry as a bone. As one can always state about books that are overviews, one could wish for more thorough coverage of personal groups of interest, but as an overview, this is a great book. The diagrams and phylogenetic charts are very helpful, and the case studies that are provided in offset boxes are very interesting.
One major complaint about the book is the number of typos and mislabeled can become rather confusing. I have taken a pen to the book and with careful reading, re-reading and cross referencing, have corrected the errors in my own copy to save me the brain strain...but on the whole, this book does what one would want from it.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent intermediate level book June 4, 2006
This book provides a readable, self-contained, description of the evolution of vertebrates. I think it's a great book.

The main purpose of the opening two chapters is to provide background material for the rest of the book. The first shows how vertebrates fit into the tree of life. Enough embryology is presented to define deutrostomes. The only phylum considered in any detail is, not surprisingly, chordata. Some other phyla are described, but this is done mainly to show how they relate to chordates. This chapter is brief but lucid. The following chapter presents material on fossil excavation, cladistics and the fossil record.

After this introductory material the book progresses to its main topic. The approach is roughly chronological. As usual the focus is, for the most part, on the animals that were dominat in that time. For instance amphibians aren't considered after rise of amniotes and reptiles aren't considered after the Mesozoic.

The first topic covered is fish from the Paleozoic, at least through the Devonian period. The material is pretty much what one would expect: jawless fish, the origin of jaws, armour-plated fish, early sharks, bony fish, lung fish and a mass extinction of fish that occurred in the late Devonian. There is a chapter later in the book that covers fish evolution from the end of the Paleozoic. It treats the evolution of sharks and bony fish in more detail.

An outline of the remaining content is: amphibians, early amniotes (my favorite chapter covering synapsids/diapsids/anapsids), dinosaurs and reptiles from the Mesozoic, birds, mammals and finally a chapter on human evolution.

Each chapter begins with a list of "key questions" that will be addressed.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vertebrate Palaeontology November 20, 2004
"Vertebrate Palaeontology" written by Michael J. Benton is a chronological narritive wriiten like a college text book about the subject of vertebrate palaenolology. There are a few diversions into related current subject matter throughout the text making for some interesting reading but the focus of the book is how the vertebrate palaeontologists obtain their information.

I found the book to be very informative and rather detailed in scope and breath in some areas where there is a lot of information on the subject and and rather enlightening in areas where there is less information. "Verterbrate Palaeontology" is designed for palaeontology courses in college given by either the biology, geology, or palaeontology departments within the university setting, but if you are an enthusiast you can still benefit from reading this book, and experience the "how" in how information is processed in a research setting.

"Vertebrate Palaeontology" is about the evolution of the vertebrate... that is, it is about all of the historical animals that have existed prior to man's evolution and about human evolution itself. The book makes for a fascinating read and I found that it is very logical in its progression and the information that the book imparts is quite valuable in its very nature as to how animals evolved as they did and for what purpose.

Like I've said, this book is not for the novice or a young reader, but for those that truly need to read about more detailed and structured information as to why things are as they are and happened for a particular reason.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good, consistent overview of the subphylum June 17, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I loved Professor Benton's book WHEN LIFE NEARLY DIED so much I wanted to read through anything else by him. Even if it's "just" a textbook, I still loved VERTEBRATE PALAEONTOLOGY. It provides a good overview of the subphylum, consistent because the drawings throughout are the same, which doesn't necessarily exist in other textbooks that utilize different artistic renderings. And, btw, the taxons to get us here are: Eukaryota, Opisthokonta (unraked, but higher than a phylum, in this case Animalia, and anything with flagellum in their life cycle), Animalia, Chordata. Highly recommended for enthusiasts... - lc
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Uninspiring take on vertebrate evolution November 20, 2011
By John
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm a big fan of vertebrates in the evolutionary theater, and so was excited to purchase this book. And thats why I was disappointed by this dry and uninsightful account. I'd recommend Pough's Vertebrate Life for a more interesting and conceptual read.
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