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Greenhouse of the Dinosaurs: Evolution, Extinction, and the Future of Our Planet

4.4 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0231146609
ISBN-10: 0231146604
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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)

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

(Zentralblatt fur Geologie und Palaontologie)

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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: 6.4 x 0.9 x 9.3 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: #1,951,271 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Hardcover
First off, I truly enjoyed this book from a paleontological point of view and as one who enjoys reading of the history and experiences of other paleontologists - especially of their discoveries throughout many parts of the world that are unavailable to me. Yet, this book is not for those wanting a light hearted read of the developments leading up to the determination of climatic changes over time and how it affected prehistoric life, particularly since the demise of the dinosaurs up to the Eocene-Oligocene cooling period. It is full of details that truly flesh out the history of life from early times to the present, even speculating on the future. Its strong focus on describing the efforts of those before us in the field, kept me focused on the book and reevaluate what I had previously known about these scientists. I strongly recommend this book to paleontologists and those well versed in scientific reads. And as the author, Prothero, states, he wanted to focus on the human aspect of this field. Well he succeeded quite well.

It is a timely book due to the enormous discussion of modern and future climatic changes (warming). Everyday one reads or watches some topic related to this phenomenon and this book can provide the tools for everyone to understand the methods used to analyze past climate to what the future may hold for the planet. The thorough discussion of paleomagnetism and how it is used to interpret the data is extremely well done, based on the author's own work as a graduate student to much later as even he re-evaluates his own (previous) work and uses new information to re-write paleohistory.

A negative for me was the small and faint type used within the book. Is this a sign of age? No, I believe it to be a poor choice by the editors in my opinion.
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