Paleontology & Geology

The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 Billion Years, from Stardust to Living Planet

by Robert M. Hazen

New York: Viking Adult, 2012. 320 pages.

Reviewer Joseph G Meert was “delighted to see that Hazen’s book turns the standard treatment of Earth history upside down by devoting an almost proportional treatment of space to the Precambrian (90% of the book) and the Phanerozoic (10% of the book).” Also distinctive in the book is Hazen’s emphasis on mineral evolution: “the complexity of mineral species on the Earth is a function of the interplay among life, environment, and chemistry.” Meert concludes, “If you are at all interested in deep time, this book will ca

Extinction and Radiation: How the Fall of Dinosaurs Led to the Rise of Mammals

by J. David Archibald
Baltimore (MD): The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011. 120 pages.

In Extinction and Radiation, according to reviewer P. David Polly, it is argued that “the patterns of extinction and survival through the Late Cretaceous and early Paleogene differed among groups of organisms, some of which died off prior to the collision and some of which were unaffected. These patterns thus cannot be entirely explained by a sudden impact.

Written in Stone

by Brian Switek
New York: Bellevue Literary Press, 2010. 320 pages.

Reviewer Pat Shipman regards the individual chapters of Written in Stone as good, particularly the opening chapter on the overselling of Darwinius masillae: “For a student wanting to brush up quickly on, say, human or horse evolution, this book will be a treasure trove.” But she laments the lack of any overarching structure or theme to unify them.

Nature’s Clocks: How Scientists Measure the Age of Almost Everything

by Doug Macdougall
Berkeley (CA): University of California Press, 2008. 288 pages.

“In Nature’s Clocks,” writes reviewer John W Geissman, “Doug Macdougall provides an exceptionally well-written and engaging description ... of how we know what we know about absolute age determinations and thus about our attempts to unravel the uncertainties of deep time.

A Sea without Fish: Life in the Ordovician Sea of the Cincinnati Region

by Richard Arnold Davis with David L. Meyer
Bloomington (IN): Indiana University Press, 2009. 368 pages.

From the publisher: "The Cincinnati area has yielded some of the world's most abundant and best-preserved fossils of invertebrate animals such as trilobites, bryozoans, brachiopods, molluscs, echinoderms, and graptolites. So famous are the Ordovician fossils and rocks of the Cincinnati region that geologists use the term 'Cincinnatian' for strata of the same age all over North America.

The Cambrian Fossils of Chengjiang, China: The Flowering of Early Animal Life

by Hou Xian-Guang, Richard J. Aldridge, Jan Bergström, David J. Siveter, Derek J. Siveter, and Feng Xiang-Hong
Malden (MA): Blackwell Science, 2004. 248 pages.

The first book in the English language on the Chengjiang biota, The Cambrian Fossils of Chengjiang, China succeeds in doing justice to both their scientific importance and -- with scores of color plates -- their wondrous beauty. Reviewing the book for New Scientist, Douglas Palmer writes, "Mainly intended for professional palaeontologists, this spotter's guide details the amazing fossils, 525 million years old, that have been shaking the tree of life for the past 10 years.

The Crucible of Creation: The Burgess Shale and the Rise of Animals

by Simon Conway Morris
New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. 276 pages.

"Located in the west of Canada, the Burgess Shale contains a unique collection of fossil remains, and has become an icon for those studying the history of life," writes the publisher. "This remarkable book takes us on a fresh journey back in time through the Burgess Shale and its astonishing collection of Cambrian creatures.

The Rise of Animals: Evolution and Diversification of the Kingdom Animalia

by Mikhail A. Fedonkin, James G. Gehling, Kathleen Grey, Guy M. Narbonne, and Patricia Vickers-Rich
Baltimore (MD): The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008. 344 pages.

"The main aim of this book is to highlight one part of the immense sweep of time called the Precambrian -- the Proterozoic -- and, in fact, only a part of that Eon -- the time when the first animals appeared -- in a wide variety of places on Earth," the authors explains. "The first animals will always be of profound interest to scientist and layperson alike." With a foreword by the late Arthur C. Clarke.

Darwin's Lost World: The Hidden History of Animal Life

by Martin Brasier
New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. 288 pages.

To the question of where Precambrian fossils were, Darwin lamented, "I can give no satisfactory answer." Darwin's Lost World, as the reviewer for Library Journal comments, provides "[a] rollicking account of [Brasier's] adventures seeking an answer to a question that vexed Charles Darwin." At once a travelogue, ranging from China, Mongolia, and Siberia to Oman, Newfoundland, and Scotland, and a review of what is now known about the emergence of complex multicellular life, Darwin's Lost World is a spirited introduction to the biota of the late Precambrian and early

Trilobite! Eyewitness to Evolution

by Richard Fortey
New York: Vintage, 2001. 320 pages

Reviewing Trilobite! for RNCSE, Kevin Padian wrote, "Fortey has a lot to teach about trilobite structure, diversity, and evolution, but his book is far less pedestrian and far more engaging than a more text-like treatment would have been. Rather, he has used trilobites as a vehicle to explain a great many aspects of evolution, geologic history, and how we know what we know about these ancient animals and the problems that they illuminate. Besides, his prose is genial and knowledgeable ...