After the mass extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, mammals became the dominant terrestrial life form on our planet. Roaming the earth were spectacular beasts such as saber-toothed cats, giant mastodonts, immense ground sloths, and gigantic giraffe-like rhinoceroses. Here is the ultimate illustrated field guide to the lost world of these weird and wonderful prehistoric creatures.
A woolly mammoth probably won’t come thundering through your vegetable garden any time soon. But if one did, this would be the book to keep on your windowsill next to the binoculars. It covers all the main groups of fossil mammals, discussing taxonomy and evolutionary history, and providing concise accounts of the better-known genera and species as well as an up-to-date family tree for each group. No other book presents such a wealth of new information about these animals—what they looked like, how they behaved, and how they were interrelated. In addition, this unique guide is stunningly illustrated throughout with full-color reconstructions of these beasts—many never before depicted—along with photographs of amazing fossils from around the world.
- Provides an up-to-date guidebook to hundreds of extinct species, from saber-toothed cats to giant mammoths
- Features a wealth of color illustrations, including new reconstructions of many animals never before depicted
- Demonstrates evolution in action—such as how whales evolved from hoofed mammals and how giraffes evolved from creatures with short necks
- Explains how mass extinctions and climate change affected mammals, including why some mammals grew so huge
Donald R. Prothero is research associate in vertebrate paleontology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and professor emeritus of geology at Occidental College. His many books include Greenhouse of the Dinosaurs: Evolution, Extinction, and the Future of Our Planet, Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters, and After the Dinosaurs: The Age of Mammals.
Whether we realize it or not, we carry in our mouths the legacy of our evolution. Our teeth are like living fossils that can be studied and compared to those of our ancestors to teach us how we became human. In Evolution’s Bite, noted paleoanthropologist Peter Ungar brings together for the first time cutting-edge advances in understanding human evolution and climate change with new approaches to uncovering dietary clues from fossil teeth to present a remarkable investigation into the ways that teeth—their shape, chemistry, and wear—reveal how we came to be.
Ungar describes how a tooth’s “foodprints”—distinctive patterns of microscopic wear and tear—provide telltale details about what an animal actually ate in the past. These clues, combined with groundbreaking research in paleoclimatology, demonstrate how a changing climate altered the food options available to our ancestors, what Ungar calls the biospheric buffet. When diets change, species change, and Ungar traces how diet and an unpredictable climate determined who among our ancestors was winnowed out and who survived, as well as why we transitioned from the role of forager to farmer. By sifting through the evidence—and the scars on our teeth—Ungar makes the important case for what might or might not be the most natural diet for humans.
Traveling the four corners of the globe and combining scientific breakthroughs with vivid narrative, Evolution’s Bite presents a unique dental perspective on our astonishing human development.
Peter S. Ungar is Distinguished Professor and director of the Environmental Dynamics Program at the University of Arkansas. He is the author of Teeth: A Very Short Introduction and Mammal Teeth: Origin, Evolution, and Diversity and the editor of Evolution of the Human Diet: The Known, the Unknown, and the Unknowable. He lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas.