Fantastic Fossils: A Guide to Finding and Identifying Prehistoric Life

Columbia Univ. Mar. 2020. 364p. ISBN 9780231195782. $35. SCI
Paleontologist Prothero (geological sciences, Calif. State Polytechnic; vertebrate paleontology, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County; The Story of Life in 25 Fossils) offers practical advice and a solid biological foundation to the fledgling fossil collector. Beginning with some paleontology fundamentals—how fossils are formed, the fossil-bearing rocks, the best fossil sites, and the whys and wherefores of scientific nomenclature—Prothero progresses through the animal kingdom phylum by phylum, describing the anatomical features and basic physiology of representative organisms, living and fossil. The emphasis here is on the identification of invertebrate and vertebrate fossils; only one chapter is devoted to fossil plants. Although there are many helpful diagrams and fossil photos, the captioning method is sometimes cumbersome: one 14-part caption covers ten pages of illustrations, forcing readers to flip back and forth between the illustrations and the multipart caption.
VERDICT Overall, this well-written introduction to the joys of fossil hunting is recommended for the neophyte fossil collector who hasn’t read Richard Fortey’s classic, Fossils: Key to the Past.

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