Dinosaurs have captured the public's imagination since their identification in the early 1800s. But as paleontologists continue to learn more about their subject, the story of how and when dinosaurs roamed the earth has changed. In order to shed light on how scientists understand dinosaurs in the early 21st century, paleontologist Steve Brusatte has written The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs, a primer on how these terrible lizards arrived, conquered the Earth, died off and evolved into something new.
A professor at the University of Edinburgh, Brusatte is an American-born and -trained paleontologist whose work has taken him across the world, from the badlands of the States to quarries in Eastern Europe to Chinese digs. Using his own experiences as a way to bind together the last 200 years of dinosaur research, Brusatte walks the reader through the primordial soup and mass extinctions that led to the evolution of early dinosaurs and the appearance of creatures most people recognize, like T. rex and Triceratops. He also explains how scientists now know that some dinosaurs evolved into birds before a giant asteroid smashed into the Earth, dooming nearly all dinosaurs while sparing our mammalian ancestors.
Brusatte's prose shows the excitement he feels about his subject, making the book more of a conversation than a dry tract, though he can get a tad too personal sometimes. Still, this is a great introduction for folks wanting to learn more about dinosaurs. --Noah Cruickshank, adult engagement manager, the Field Museum, Chicago, Ill.