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The Earth Through Time

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  • Edition: 11th
  • Format: Loose-leaf
  • Copyright: 2016-06-21
  • Publisher: Wiley

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The Earth Through Time, 11th Edition, by Harold L. Levin and David T. King chronicles the Earth's story from the time the Sun began to radiate its light, to the beginning of civilization. The goal of The Earth Through Time is to present the history of the Earth, and the science behind that hsitory, as simply and clearly as possible. The authors strived to make the narrative more engaging, to convey the unique perspective and value of historical geology, and to improve the presentation so as to stimulate interest and enhance the reader's ability to retain essential concepts, long after the final exam.

Author Biography

Harold ("Hal") Levin began his career as a petroleum geologist in 1956 after receiving bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Missouri and a doctorate from Washington University. His fondness for teaching brought him  back to Washington University in 1962, where he is currently professor of geology and paleontology in  the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. His writing efforts include authorship of seven edition of The Earth Through Time, four editions of Contemporary Physical Geology; Essentials of Earth Science and co-authorship of Earth: Past and Present, as well as eight editions of Laboratory Studies in Historical Geology; Life Through Time, and more recently, Ancient Invertebrates and Their Living Relatives.


For his courses in physical geology, historical geology, paleontology, sedimentology, and stratigraphy, Hal has received several awards for excellence in teaching. The accompanying photograph was taken during a lecture on life of the Cenozoic Era. The horse skull serves to illustrate changes in the teeth and jaws of grazing animals in response to the spread of prairies and savannahs during the Miocene and subsequent epochs.

Table of Contents

CHAPTER 1 The Science of Historical Geology 3

Why Study Earth History? 4

Geology Lives in the Present and the Past 4

A Way to Solve Problems: The Scientific Method 5

Three Great Themes in Earth History 8

What Lies Ahead? 10

CHAPTER 2 Early Geologists Tackle History’s Mysteries 15

The Intrigue of Fossils 16

An Early Scientist Discovers Some Basic Rules 17

English and European Researchers Unravel the Succession of Strata 19

Neptunists and Plutonists Clash 20

An Eighteenth]Century Naturalist Recognizes that the Present is the Key to the Past 20

The Principle of Fossil Succession 22

The Great Uniformitarianism–Catastrophism Controversy 23

The Principle of Cross]Cutting Relationships 24

Evolution: How Organisms Change Through Time 26

Geological History—North America 27

CHAPTER 3 Time and Geology 33

Finding the Age of Rocks: Relative Versus Absolute Dating 34

A Scale of Geological Time 34

Absolute Geological Time: Clocks in the Rocks 39

Radioactivity Provides a Way to Date Rocks 40

What Occurs when Atoms Decay? 41

The Principal Radioactive Timekeepers 44

How Old is Earth? 48

CHAPTER 4 Rocks and Minerals: Documents That Record Earth’s History 53

Minerals as Evidence of Earth History 54

Minerals and Their Properties 54

Common Rock]Forming Minerals 56

Earth’s Three Families of Rock and How They Form 61

Igneous Rocks: From Magma to Stone 62

Sedimentary Rocks: Layered Pages of History 70

Metamorphic Rocks: Changed without Melting 76

CHAPTER 5 The Sedimentary Archives 85

Tectonic Setting is the Greatest Factor in Sediment Deposition 86

Environments where Deposition Occurs 87

What Rock Color Tells Us 93

What Rock Texture Tells Us 95

What Sedimentary Structures Tell Us 98

What Four Sandstone Types Reveal about Tectonic Setting 102

Limestones and How they Form 103

Organizing Strata to Solve Geological Problems 107

Sea]Level Change Means Great Environmental Change 110

Stratigraphy and the Correlation of Rock Bodies 111

Unconformities: Something is Missing 113

Depicting the Past 116

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona 122

CHAPTER 6 Life on Earth: What Do Fossils Reveal? 129

Fossils: Surviving Records of Past Life 130

Figuring Out How Life is Organized 135

Evolution: Continuous Changes in Life 136

Evidence of Evolution 145

Fossils and Stratigraphy 148

Fossils Indicate Past Environments 153

How Fossils Indicate Paleogeography 157

How Fossils Indicate Past Climates 160

An Overview of the History of Life 162

CHAPTER 7 Plate Tectonics Underlies All Earth History 169

Earthquake Waves Reveal Earth’s Mysterious Interior 170

Earth’s Internal Zones 171

Earth’s Two Types of Crust 174

Plate Tectonics Ties it all Together 175

Drifting Continents 178

Evidence for Continental Drift 179

Paleomagnetism: Ancient Magnetism Locked into Rocks 181

Today’s Plate Tectonics Theory 184

What Happens at Plate Margins? 188

What Drives Plate Tectonics? 195

Verifying Plate Tectonics Theory 196

Thermal Plumes, Hotspots, and Hawaii 200

Exotic Terranes 202

Broken, Squeezed, or Stretched Rocks Produce Geological Structures 204

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park 209

CHAPTER 8 The Earth’s Formative Stages and the Archean Eon 215

Earth in Context: A Little Astronomy 216

A Solar System Tour, From Center to Fringe 221

Following Accretion, Earth Differentiates 227

The Primitive Atmosphere—Virtually No Oxygen 229

The Primitive Ocean and the Hydrologic Cycle 230

Origin of Precambrian “Basement” Rocks 231

The Origin of Life 237

Voyageurs National Park 245

In Retrospect 246

CHAPTER 9 Proterozoic: Dawn of a More Modern World 251

Highlights of Paleoproterozoic (2.5 to 1.6 billion years ago) 252

Highlights of Mesoproterozoic (1.6 to 1.0 billion years ago) 258

Highlights of Neoproterozoic (1.0 to 541 million years ago) 259

Proterozoic Rocks of the United States 261

Proterozoic Life 262

CHAPTER 10 Early Paleozoic Events 275

Dance of the Continents 277

Some Regions Tranquil, Others Active 277

Identifying the Cambrian Base 281

Early Paleozoic Events 281

Cratonic Sequences: Seas Come In, Seas Go Out 283

Sauk and Tippecanoe Sequences 283

Way out West: Events in the Cordillera 287

Deposition in the Far North 290

Dynamic Events in the East 290

Jasper National Park 291

The Caledonian Orogenic Belt 295

Aspects of Early Paleozoic Climate 297

CHAPTER 11 Late Paleozoic Events 303

Seas Come in and Seas Go Out 304

Unrest Along the Western Margin of the Craton 312

To the East, A Clash of Continents 315

Sedimentation and Orogeny in the West 324

Europe During Late Paleozoic 326

Gondwana During Late Paleozoic 327

Climates of Late Paleozoic 328

Mineral Wealth in Upper Paleozoic Rocks 329

Acadia National Park 330

CHAPTER 12 Paleozoic Life 335

Animals with Shells Proliferate—and So Does Preservation 336

Cambrian Explosion of Life: Amazing Fossil Sites in Canada and China 336

The Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event 343

A Variety of Living Strategies 343

Protistans: Creatures of a Single Cell 344

Marine Invertebrates Populate the Seas 345

Advent of the Vertebrates 359

The Rise of Fishes 361

Conodonts: Valuable but Enigmatic Fossils 369

Advent of Tetrapods 369

Paleozoic Plants 373

Mass Extinctions 375

CHAPTER 13 Mesozoic Events 383

The Breakup of Pangea 384

Mesozoic in Eastern North America 385

Mesozoic in Western North America 388

Zion National Park 392

The Tethys Sea in Europe 404

Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument 405

Gondwana Events 408

Global Events and Trends 410

CHAPTER 14 Mesozoic Life 415

Climate Controls it All 416

Mesozoic Invertebrates 419

Mesozoic Vertebrates 424

Dinosaurs: “Terrifying Lizards” 427

Dinosaur National Monument 428

Dinosaurs: Cold-Blooded, Warm-Blooded, or Both? 442

Dinosaur Parenting 443

Flying Reptiles 443

Dragons of the Seas 445

The Rise of Modern Birds 447

The Mammalian Vanguard 449

Sea Plants and Phytoplankton 452

Land Plants 454

The End-Cretaceous Catastrophe 456

CHAPTER 15 Cenozoic Events 465

The Tectonics–Climate Connection 466

Stability and Erosion Along the North American Eastern Margin 468

Gulf Coast: Transgressing and Regressing Sea 471

The Western Cordillera 471

Creating the Basin and Range Province 475

Badlands National Park, South Dakota 476

Colorado Plateau Uplift 477

Columbia Plateau and Cascades Volcanism 477

Sierra Nevada and California 482

The New West Coast Tectonics 483

Cenozoic Tectonics Elsewhere 483

Cenozoic Climates: Global Warming then Cooling 486

Big Freeze: The Pleistocene Ice Age 488

What Caused the Ice Age? 496

CHAPTER 16 Cenozoic Life 503

Grasslands Expand, Mammals Respond 505

Plankton 506

Marine Invertebrates 506

Vertebrates 510

Mammals 514

Monotremes 517

Marsupials 517

Placental Mammals 518

Demise of the Pleistocene Giants 536

CHAPTER 17 Human Origins 541

Primates 542

Modern Primates 544

Primate Beginnings 545

Early Anthropoids 548

Australopithecine Stage and the Emergence of Hominins 550

A Species in Transition: Australopithecus Sediba 552

Homo Erectus Stage 554

Final Stages of Human Evolution 555

Humans Arrive in the Americas 561

Human Population: 7 Billion and Growing 563

What Lies Ahead? 564



APPENDICES — Available online at www.wiley.com/college/levin

APPENDIX A Classification of Living Things

APPENDIX B Physiographic Provinces of the Contiguous United States

APPENDIX C Periodic Table and Symbols for Chemical Elements

APPENDIX D Convenient Conversion Factors

APPENDIX E Exponential or Scientific Notation

APPENDIX F Rock Symbols

APPENDIX G Bedrock Geology of North America and Central America

Supplemental Materials

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