After the Dinosaurs: The Age of Mammals

After the Dinosaurs: The Age of Mammals

After the Dinosaurs: The Age of Mammals

After the Dinosaurs: The Age of Mammals

Synopsis

Perhaps nudged over the evolutionary cliff by a giant boloid striking the earth, the incredible and fascinating group of animals called dinosaurs became extinct some 65 million years ago (except for their feathered descendants). In their place evolved an enormous variety of land creatures, especially the mammals, which in their way were every bit as remarkable as their Mesozoic cousins.

The Age of Mammals, the Cenozoic Era, has never had its Jurassic Park, but it was an amazing time in earth's history, populated by a wonderful assortment of bizarre animals. The rapid evolution of thousands of species of mammals brought forth gigantic hornless rhinos, sabertooth cats, mastodonts and mammoths, and many other creatures--including our own ancestors.

Their story is part of a larger story of a world emerging from the greenhouse conditions of the Mesozoic, warming up dramatically about 55 million years ago, and then cooling rapidly so that 33 million years ago the glacial ice returned. The earth's vegetation went through equally dramatic changes, from tropical jungles in Montana and forests at the poles, to grasslands and savannas across the entire world. Life in the sea also underwent striking evolution reflecting global climate change, including the emergence of such creatures as giant sharks, seals, sea lions, dolphins, and whales.

After the Dinosaurs is a book for everyone who has an abiding fascination with the remarkable life of the past.

Excerpt

The Mesozoic Era, or Age of Dinosaurs, is enormously popular in the public eye, with numerous books and television shows documenting the fascinating lives and times of these tremendous creatures. But for the last 65 million years, the dinosaurs (except for their bird descendants) have been extinct. in their place evolved an enormous variety of land creatures, especially the mammals, which are equally bizarre and fascinating to the public and paleontologist alike. the Age of Mammals, or the Cenozoic Era, has not received nearly same amount of attention as the Mesozoic. Yet there is an amazing story of the rapid evolution of thousands of species of mammals, including gigantic hornless rhinos, sabertoothed cats, mastodonts and mammoths, and many other fascinating creatures (including our own ancestors). This story is part of a larger story of global climate change: from the greenhouse conditions of the Mesozoic, the world warmed up dramatically about 55 million years ago and then began to cool down, so that glacial ice returned by 33 million years ago. the vegetation of the world went through an equally fascinating transformation, from tropical jungles in Montana and forests at the poles to grasslands and savannas across the entire world by 7 million years ago. and life in the sea, although less familiar to us, also underwent dramatic changes reflecting global climate change, including the evolution of such creatures as giant great white sharks, seals, sea lions, and dolphins and whales.

Yet there are remarkably few accounts of the Cenozoic for the nonspecialist. the first synthesis was Henry Fairfield Osborn’s The Age of Mammals in Europe, Asia, and North America (1910), which represented what was known almost a century ago. Since then, a few books have focused on the evolution of Cenozoic mammals exclusively, such as Björn Kurtén’s The Age of Mammals (1971) and Jordi Agusti and Mauricio Anton’s Mammoths, Sabertooths, and Hominids: 65 Million Years of Mammalian Evolution in Europe (2002). Only Charles Pomerol’s The Cenozoic Era: Tertiary and Quaternary (1982) described not only mammals but also the climatic story and the evolution of marine life, but it is twenty-four years out of date and also out of print. Since that time, we have learned a tremendous amount about the dating and correlation of Cenozoic rocks, the changes in Cenozoic climate, and especially the evolution of Cenozoic . . .

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