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Academic & Professional Books  Reptiles & Amphibians  Reptiles

The Rise of Reptiles 320 Million Years of Evolution

New SPECIAL OFFER
By: Hans-Dieter Sues(Author)
385 pages, 236 colour photos and colour illustrations; 120 b/w illustrations
NHBS
A technical and scholarly reference work that is invaluable to professionals and advanced students of evolutionary biology and palaeontology.
The Rise of Reptiles
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  • Best of winter The Rise of Reptiles ISBN: 9781421428673 Hardback Oct 2019 In stock
    £52.99£62.99
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About this book

Over 300 million years ago, an early land vertebrate developed an egg that contained the embryo in an amnion, allowing it to be deposited on land. This moment marked the first step in the fascinating and complex evolutionary journey of the reptiles. In The Rise of Reptiles, paleontologist Hans-Dieter Sues explores the diversity of reptilian lineages, discussing the relationships among turtles, crocodylians, lizards and snakes, and many extinct groups.

Reflecting the tremendous advances in the study of reptilian diversity and phylogeny over recent decades, The Rise of Reptiles is the first detailed, contemporary synthesis of the evolutionary history of these remarkable animals. Reptiles have always confused taxonomists, who have endlessly debated and rewritten their classifications. In this book, Sues adopts an explicitly phylogenetic framework to sift through the evidence and discuss the origin and diversification of Reptilia in a way no one has before. He also examines the genealogical link between dinosaurs and birds and sheds new light on the Age of Reptiles, a period that saw the rise and fall of most dinosaurs.

With this single meticulously researched volume, Sues paints a complete portrait of the reptilian evolution. Numerous photographs of key specimens from around the world introduce readers to the reptilian fossil record, and color images of present-day reptiles illustrate their diversity. The extensive bibliography provides an invaluable guide for readers who are interested in exploring individual topics more deeply. Accurate, synthetic, and sweeping, The Rise of Reptiles is the definitive work on the subject.

Contents

Preface
Outline Classification

Chapter 1 Introduction
Chapter 2 Amniotes and Reptiles
Chapter 3 Parareptilia: A Group of Their Own
Chapter 4 Basal Eureptilia and Nonsaurian Diapsida: Early Evolution of Modern Reptiles
Chapter 5 Testudinata: Turtles and Their Stem-Taxa
Chapter 6 Sauropterygia, Ichthyosauromorpha, and Related Reptiles: The Early Mesozoic Invasion of the Sea
Chapter 7 Lepidosauromorpha: Tuatara, Lizards, Snakes, and Their Relatives
Chapter 8 Archosauromorpha: The Ruling Reptiles and Their Relatives
Chapter 9 Pseudosuchia: Crocodile-Line Reptiles
Chapter 10 Avemetatarsalia: Bird-Line Reptiles
Chapter 11 Dinosauria: Saurischia
Chapter 12 Dinosauria: Ornithischia
Chapter 13 A Brief History of Reptiles
Chapter 14 The Future of Reptiles

Glossary
References
Index

Customer Reviews (1)

  • Technical and invaluable reference work
    By Leon (NHBS Catalogue Editor) 31 Oct 2019 Written for Hardback


    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.

    This book is part of an unofficial series. Over the years, Johns Hopkins University Press has published eight books with titles like this, each of which aims to offer a current picture of our thinking on the evolutionary relationships of the members, or clades, that make up these groups.

    Taxonomists nowadays generally turn to phylogenetic classification to build family trees. Sues shortly introduces both the history and the logic behind this method, explaining how the shared presence of certain features is used to determine which groups descended from a common ancestor. These features can (and ideally do) encompass as much data as possible, including molecular, morphological, behavioural, and ecological traits. A keyword here, which explains why taxonomy is always in flux and why a book like this can only ever be a snapshot in time, is “hypothesis”. Taxonomists construct family or phylogenetic trees that are most likely given the available body of data. When the data changes, for example when we discover new fossils or start using a new source of information such as DNA, so does the likelihood of these family trees. Phylogenetic trees are thus constantly being revised, and often there are multiple possible interpretations of the available data.

    When you want to elucidate the deep evolutionary history of (extinct) organisms, all you have are fossils remains. In the case of reptiles and other vertebrates that means skeletal morphology is your feature of choice. Sure, amazing fossils have been unearthed showing body outlines, skin impressions, and traces of hair and feathers, but these remain exceptional and rare. For palaeontologists, most material comprises fossilised skeletons that are incomplete and disarticulated (read: a jumbled mess).

    So, the other important task of Sues’ short introduction is to familiarise the reader with the basics of skeletal morphology, especially of skulls, teeth, and vertebrae. There are useful illustrations here, and the book comes with a glossary, but to really get the most out of this book, you need to be familiar with the terminology – this is no pop-science book.

    This becomes clear once you get to the bulk of the book: ten chapters over some 270 pages that very systematically go through the whole reptile family tree. These chapters consist almost exclusively of short sections that describe exactly what shared features of fossilised skeletons have been used to define certain groups and their relationships, and how opinions differ over what skeletal features are informative and should be included when building trees. Most group names are shown in phylogenetic diagrams throughout the book, though some names are left out (I am not sure why), and only comparison of text and image clarify what they refer to.

    To give you an example of what to expect, take the description for Paripelvia, a group of marine reptiles:

    "Paripelvia [...] comprises all post-Triassic euichthyosaurians along with a few Late Triassic taxa [...]. Motani (1999) listed several shared derived features for this clade: scapular blade straight; radius broader than long; and pubis more slender than ischium. C. Ji et al. (2015) used different synapomorphies including the absence of a dorsal lamina on the maxilla and the absence of a contact between the maxilla and external naris. [...]"

    As I have said elsewhere, this is not intended as a criticism, but to give you an idea of the level this book is pitched at. This is the hard science, the raw material, the data and the analyses on which pop-science books (indirectly) rely.

    However, if you are in that target audience, this book is a gold mine. Most palaeontologists and zoologists will only be intimately familiar with small parts of the reptile tree. There is simply too much information out there for any one person to master. So, to have Sues zoom out, synthesise vast quantities of data, and provide a big-picture view of reptile evolution is incredibly valuable.

    But even if you are just a curious and adventurous reader (I include myself in that group), this book is informative and revealing. Three things stood out for me. First, the illustrations that grace this book: hundreds of colour photos of fossils and living reptiles, plus line drawings of skeletons. Unbelievable and stunning are two words that are fighting with each other to come out of my mouth first.

    Second is that Sues stands on the shoulders of those who came before him (who in turn stood on the shoulders... etc.). For some groups there is, for now, a clear consensus (Gauthier et al.’s 300-page monograph Assembling the Squamate Tree of Life is frequently mentioned). For other groups, Sues has to draw on many smaller papers and on interpretations that sometimes disagree with each other. The reference section is very valuable if you want to dig deeper and need a starting point. Interesting side note: Baron et al.‘s 2017 Nature paper, proposing radical changes to the dinosaur family tree, is not yet taken as gospel and here mentioned as part of "the diversity of competing phylogenetic hypotheses [that] underscores our still inadequate understanding of the fossil record of early dinosaurs".

    The last thing that struck me was the incredible diversity of reptiles past and present: Parareptilia, Testudinata (includes turtles), Sauropterygia (includes ichthyosaurs and other marine reptiles), Lepidosauromorpha (includes lizards and snakes), and Archosauromorpha (includes groups leading to both crocodiles (Pseudosuchia) and pterosaurs, dinosaurs and birds (Avemetatarsalia)). What a wondrous diversity to behold! Although some basic information on biology is included for all groups, there is no space for much detail, and Sues refers readers to other reference works.

    For advanced students and professionals working in the fields of herpetology, evolutionary biology, vertebrate zoology, or palaeontology this technical reference work is a must-have. Overviews like these do not come along often as they require a tremendous amount of knowledge, time, and patience to write. Sues is to be commended for taking on this herculean effort, as is the publisher for supporting and publishing this kind of scholarship.
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Biography

Hans-Dieter Sues is a senior scientist and curator of fossil vertebrates at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. He is the coauthor of Triassic Life on Land: The Great Transition.

New SPECIAL OFFER
By: Hans-Dieter Sues(Author)
385 pages, 236 colour photos and colour illustrations; 120 b/w illustrations
NHBS
A technical and scholarly reference work that is invaluable to professionals and advanced students of evolutionary biology and palaeontology.
Media reviews

"A valuable reference book – entertaining read and beautifully illustrated – about how reptiles first evolved and diversified into many lineages, including the one leading to us mammals. The Rise of Reptiles is essential reading for every evolutionary biologist."
– John Long, Flinders University, coauthor of Feathered Dinosaurs: The Origin of Birds

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