Nothing fills us with a sense of wonder like fossils. What looks at first like a simple rock is in fact a clue that reveals the staggering diversity of ancient environments, the winding pathways of evolution, and the majesty of a vanished earth. But as much as one might daydream of digging a hole in the backyard and finding a Tyrannosaurus, only a few places contain these buried treasures, and when a scientist comes across a remnant of prehistoric life, great care must be taken. What do budding palaeontologists need to know before starting their search?
In Fantastic Fossils, Donald R. Prothero offers an accessible, entertaining, and richly illustrated guide to the palaeontologist's journey. He details the best places to look for fossils, the art of how to find them, and how to classify the major types. Prothero provides expert wisdom about typical fossils that an average person can hope to collect and how to hunt fossils responsibly and ethically. He also explores the lessons that common and rarer discoveries offer about palaeontology and its history, as well as what fossils tell us about past climates and present climate change. Captivating illustrations by the paleoartist Mary Persis Williams bring to life hundreds of important specimens. Offering valuable lessons for armchair enthusiasts and palaeontology students alike, Fantastic Fossils is an essential companion for all readers who have ever dreamed of going in search of traces of a lost world.
Part I. Fossils Are Where You Find Them
1. Fantastic Fossils
2. How Are Fossils Formed?
3. What Kinds of Rocks Yield Fossils?
4. Where Do You Find Fossils?
5. Dating Fossils
6. Collecting Fossils: Badlands
7. Collecting Fossils: Beaches
8. Collecting Fossils: Quarries and Roadcuts
9. The Crucial Step: Collecting Data
Part II. Identifying Your Fossils
10. What’s in a Name?
11. Phylum Porifera: Sponges and Their Relatives
12. Phylum Cnidaria (Coelenterates): Sea Jellies, Sea Anemones, and Corals
13. Phylum Brachiopoda: Brachiopods, or Lamp Shells
14. Phylum Bryozoa: Bryozoans, or Moss Animals
15. Phylum Arthropoda: Trilobites and Their Relatives
16. Phylum Mollusca: Clams, Snail, Squids, and Their Relatives
17. Phylum Echinodermata: Sea Stars, Sea Urchins, and Their Relatives
18. Phylum Hemichordata: Graptolites
19. Phylum Chordata: Fish, Amphibians, Reptiles, Birds, and Mammals
20. Paleobotany: Fossil Plants
Donald R. Prothero is a palaeontology and geology researcher, teacher, and author. He is adjunct professor of geological sciences at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and research associate in vertebrate paleontology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. His most recent book is The Story of the Dinosaurs in 25 Discoveries: Amazing Fossils and the People Who Found Them (2019).
"This book condenses most of what you find in a college textbook on paleontology into a concise, readable handbook that explains everything from how to find and collect fossils to how to assign them scientific names. No fossil enthusiast should be without it!"
– Spencer G. Lucas, Curator of Paleontology, New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science
"Donald Prothero knows how to use the written word to make paleontology exciting, and the literary adventure he takes us on in his latest book, Fantastic Fossils, is definitely worth the price of admission. Via prose and a plethora of illustrations Prothero shepherds us from badlands to beaches and quarries to roadcuts; all of these peregrinations give the reader a sense of what it's like to be on a paleontological quest. As part of this metaphorical pursuit one also receives practical knowledge; the reader comes to understand not only how to collect and identify fossils but also their broader significance as natural history objects with myriad implications for ecology, evolution and climate change. Prothero's book features the remark that: "Fossils are cool. Fossils are amazing." I concur, and if you do too, or if you're anyone from nine to ninety who wants to learn more about fossils, you should definitely check out this book."
– Bruce S. Lieberman, Biodiversity Institute and Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of Kansas
"Prothero is a prolific author of popular paleontology titles. Up to his usual excellent standard, this delightful and wide-ranging book provides an engaging grounding in the basics of paleontology and geology, alongside information on many of the common creatures budding fossil hunters are likely to encounter."
– John Pickrell, author of Flying Dinosaurs and Weird Dinosaurs
"The text is easy to understand, with limited use of jargon, and will be most helpful to beginners who want to know more about fossils but have limited geological understanding."