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Greenhouse of the Dinosaurs: Evolution, Extinction, and the Future of Our Planet

Donald R. Prothero

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July, 2009
Cloth, 288 pages, 120 illus.
ISBN: 978-0-231-14660-9
$32.00 / £22.00

Donald R. Prothero's science books combine leading research with first-person narratives of discovery, injecting warmth and familiarity into a profession that has much to offer nonspecialists. Bringing his trademark style and wit to an increasingly relevant subject of concern, Prothero links the climate changes that have occurred over the past 200 million years to their effects on plants and animals. In particular, he contrasts the extinctions that ended the Cretaceous period, which wiped out the dinosaurs, with those of the later Eocene and Oligocene epochs.

Prothero begins with the "greenhouse of the dinosaurs," the global-warming episode that dominated the Age of Dinosaurs and the early Age of Mammals. He describes the remarkable creatures that once populated the earth and draws on his experiences collecting fossils in the Big Badlands of South Dakota to sketch their world. Prothero then discusses the growth of the first Antarctic glaciers, which marked the Eocene-Oligocene transition, and shares his own anecdotes of excavations and controversies among colleagues that have shaped our understanding of the contemporary and prehistoric world.

The volume concludes with observations about Nisqually Glacier and other locations that show how global warming is happening much quicker than previously predicted, irrevocably changing the balance of the earth's thermostat. Engaging scientists and general readers alike, Greenhouse of the Dinosaurs connects events across thousands of millennia to make clear the human threat to natural climate change.

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About the Author

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. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1988 and the Schuchert Award (for an outstanding paleontologist under forty) in 1991. He is the author, coauthor, editor, or coeditor of twenty-four books and over two hundred scientific papers. His titles for Columbia University Press are Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters, From Greenhouse to Icehouse, and The Eocene-Oligocene Transition.

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