This is the second of a two-part dive into the world of extinct marine reptiles, following on from my review of Darren Naish’s new book Ancient Sea Reptiles. These two books were in the making simultaneously, with The Princeton Field Guide to Mesozoic Sea Reptiles by independent palaeontologist and palaeoartist Gregory S. Paul making it into print four months before Naish’s book. If a field guide to extinct creatures sounds unusual, think of it as an illustrated guide for the palaeo-enthusiast that revolves around Paul’s signature skeletal reconstructions.
The marine reptiles that roam Earth’s oceans today are but a whisper of a once vast and varied group of marine reptiles that included plesiosaurs, ichthyosaurs, and mosasaurs. As palaeontologist Darren Naish shows here, there were many more, less-familiar organisms and the evolutionary history of the group as a whole is fascinating. Ancient Sea Reptiles is a richly illustrated introduction to their biology and taxonomic diversity that hits the sweet spot when it comes to scientific content, offering a substantive read. Books are a bit like buses: you wait forever and then suddenly two come along. After a dearth of books on this topic, Ancient Sea Reptiles was published just four months after Gregory S. Paul’s The Princeton Field Guide to Mesozoic Sea Reptiles. This, then, is the first of two reviews that takes a deep dive into the world of these extinct marine reptiles.
It is no mean feat to try and tell the history of a discipline as enormous as palaeontology through images in a mere 256 pages. Yet this is exactly the challenge that David Bainbridge has taken on with this book. He has curated a striking selection of vintage and modern palaeoart, archival photos of fossils and their discoverers, and scientific diagrams through the ages. The resulting Paleontology: An Illustrated History manages to combine the old and the new with the familiar and the unfamiliar into one neatly crafted package that makes for a very nice gift.
The deep past harbours many events, epochs, and places that are still a mystery to me. Case in point: once upon a time, North America was cut in half by an enormous ocean. Something I was only dimly aware of. Luckily, Indiana University Press’s flagship palaeontology series Life of the Past has just the book to remedy that. I may be three years late to the party, but this 2017 book provides all the details one could ask for, and then some.
Reptiles are an incredibly diverse animal group with a long and complex evolutionary history, conquering land, skies, and seas multiple times. Continued discoveries of both living reptiles and fossil material are adding more details and layers to the story of their evolution. A review of how they all relate to each other has been long overdue, and geologist and curator of Vertebrate Paleontology Hans-Dieter Sues here takes on that challenge. The resulting The Rise of Reptiles is a technical and heavily illustrated reference work for the serious zoologist and palaeontologist.