381 pages, 208 illustrations
Over the past twenty years, paleontologists have made tremendous fossil discoveries, including fossils that mark the growth of whales, manatees, and seals into land mammals and the origins of elephants, horses, and rhinos. Today there exists an amazing diversity of fossil humans, suggesting we walked upright long before we acquired large brains, and new evidence from molecules that enable scientists to decipher the tree of life as never before.
The fossil record is now one of the strongest lines of evidence for evolution. In this engaging and richly illustrated book, Donald R. Prothero weaves an entertaining though intellectually rigorous history out of the transitional forms and series that dot the fossil record. Beginning with a brief discussion of the nature of science and the "monkey business of creationism," Prothero tackles subjects ranging from flood geology and rock dating to neo-Darwinism and macroevolution. He covers the ingredients of the primordial soup, the effects of communal living, invertebrate transitions, the development of the backbone, the reign of the dinosaurs, the mammalian explosion, and the leap from chimpanzee to human. Prothero pays particular attention to the recent discovery of "missing links" that complete the fossil timeline and details the debate between biologists over the mechanisms driving the evolutionary process.
Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters is an absorbing combination of firsthand observation, scientific discovery, and trenchant analysis. With the battle over the teaching of evolution still raging in the United States, there couldn't be a better moment for a book clarifying the nature and value of fossil evidence.
"This book demonstrates the importance of paleontology to the study of evolution."
– Publishers Weekly
"A must read [...] Brilliant and masterfully researched."
– Greg Sweatt, Fossil News
"Engagingly written and scientifically accurate [...] Highly recommended."
"This is one of the best books of its kind."
– Christopher diCarlo, Guelph Mercury
"The book is very valuable as a demonstration of the quality of the fossil record, which has improved dramatically in the past decade."
– Peter Dodson, Reports of the National Center for Science Education
"(T)o anyone who wishes to be informed on our current knowledge about fossils and their interpretation, and for anyone who is still not so sure whom to believe, this book will straighten things out and will be an unforgettable reading experience."
– Zentralblatt fur Geologie und Palaontologie
"This is a wonderful book that beautifully explains in layperson's terms the vast evidence for evolution in the paleontological record. Its publication comes at a critical time. By concentrating the diverse scientific literature into numerous lucid examples, Donald R. Prothero does the fields of geology, biology, and science education a major service. He provides a unique source that will be invaluable to college professors and high school teachers alike, and because his book provides abundant, clearly described examples of evolution in the fossil record, and also synthesizes important information about the Bible, it will make a valuable addition to any scientist's library."
– Bruce Lieberman, the University of Kansas
"Donald R. Prothero is not only one of the leading evolutionary scientists of our time, he writes with clarity and his prose sparkles. Prothero's book is more thorough and comprehensive than any other book for the general public on the evolution versus creationism controversy."
– Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine, monthly columnist for Scientific American, and author of Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design
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Donald R. Prothero is professor of geology at Occidental College in Los Angeles and lecturer in geobiology at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. A fellow of the Geological Society of America, the Paleontological Society, and the Linnaean Society of London, Prothero is on the editorial board of Skeptic magazine and has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Science Foundation. In 1991 he received the Schuchert Award for outstanding paleontologist under the age of 40. He is the author, coauthor, editor, or coeditor of 22 books and over 200 scientific papers, and his titles for Columbia University Press are From Greenhouse to Icehouse and The Eocene-Oligocene Transition.