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Picture a world of dog-sized scorpions and millipedes as long as a car; tropical rainforests with trees towering over 150 feet into the sky and a giant polar continent five times larger than Antarctica. That world was not imaginary; it was the earth more than 300 million years ago in the Carboniferous period of the Paleozoic era. In Carboniferous Giants and Mass Extinction, George R. McGhee Jr. explores that ancient world, explaining its origins; its downfall in the end-Permian mass extinction, the greatest biodiversity crisis to occur since the evolution of animal life on Earth; and how its legacies still affect us today.
McGhee investigates the consequences of the Late Paleozoic ice age in this comprehensive portrait of the effects of ancient climate change on global ecology. Carboniferous Giants and Mass Extinction examines the climatic conditions that allowed for the evolution of gigantic animals and the formation of the largest tropical rainforests ever to exist, which in time turned into the coal that made the industrial revolution possible – and fuels the engine of contemporary anthropogenic climate change. Exploring the strange and fascinating flora and fauna of the Late Paleozoic ice age world, McGhee focuses his analysis on the forces that brought this world to an abrupt and violent end. Synthesizing decades of research and new discoveries, this comprehensive book provides a wealth of insights into past and present extinction events and climate change.
George R. McGhee, Jr. is Distinguished Professor of Paleobiology at Rutgers University and a member of the Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research in Klosterneuburg, Austria. He has held research positions at the University of Tubingen, the Field Museum of Natural History, and the American Museum of Natural History. His books include The Late Devonian Mass Extinction The Frasnian/Famennian Crisis (1996); Theoretical Morphology: The Concept and Its Applications (1999); and When the Invasion of Land Failed: The Legacy of the Devonian Extinctions (2013), from Columbia University Press.
"Carboniferous Giants and Mass Extinction is a superb and unique synthesis of the current knowledge of processes and conditions during the Late Paleozoic, incorporating the results from all subdisciplines of the earth and life sciences. McGhee demonstrates his expertise and knowledge in all the subdisciplines in a magnificent way. The book is a pleasure to read and at the same time erudite."
– Hermann Pfefferkorn, University of Pennsylvania
"Carboniferous Giants and Mass Extinction is comprehensive and well researched, and provides fascinating insights into the complex Carboniferous world. It has amazing presentation, including depth, perception, and interpretation, and the writing style is readable and captivating. This work will be a valuable reference for geology students and others interested in past earth climates."
– Peter E. Isaacson, University of Idaho