Prehistoric Life : Evolution and the Fossil Record

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2010-03-15
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell

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This book focuses on the meaning and significance of that archive and is designed for introductory college science students, including non-science majors, enrolled in survey courses emphasizing paleontology, geology and biology. From the origins of animals to the evolution of rap music, from ancient mass extinctions to the current biodiversity crisis, and from the Snowball Earth to present day climate change this book covers it, with an eye towards showing how past life on Earth puts the modern world into its proper context. The history of life and the patterns and processes of evolution are especially emphasized, as are the interconnections between our planet, its climate system, and its varied life forms. The book does not just describe the history of life, but uses actual examples from life's history to illustrate important concepts and theories.

Author Biography

Bruce S. Lieberman is a Professor in the Department of Geology and a Senior Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology in the Natural History Museum/Biodiversity Research Center (NHM/BRC) at the University of Kansas (KU), U.S.A. His research focuses on the study of evolution in the fossil record, including the origin of animals, macroevolutionary theory, and biogeography.

Roger L. Kaesler passed away in 2007. He was Director of the Paleontological Institute as well as a Professor in the Department of Geology and a Senior Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology in the NHM/BRC at KU. His research focused on paleoecology and fossil arthropods.

Table of Contents

Introduction to Fossils
History, Science, and Historical Science
Time, Life, and Stratigraphy
What is a Fossil?
How do Fossils Form?
Conclusions: Fossils as Curious Stones
Additional Reading
The Nature of the Fossil Record
Fossils in Sedimentary Rock
Time Averaging
Mode of Growth
Colonial Organisms
Trace Fossils
Concluding Remarks
Additional Reading
Organizing the Fossil Record
History of Ideas on Biological Classification
Applying Linnaeus' Hierarchy
What is a Species and How Does a Paleontologist Identify Them?
Conclusions: the Difference Between Inanimate Atoms and Living Things
Additional Reading
Introduction to Evolution
A Biological Definition of Evolution
The History of Evolutionary Thought
Science and Religion
Darwin and Wallace: Never Ask a Stranger to Present Your Paper at a Meeting You Cannot Attend
Natural Selection
Conclusions: Why was Natural Selection Not Endorsed at Once by Many Scientists?
Additional Reading
Macroevolution, Progress, and the History of Life
Competition and Macroevolution
Does Evolution Happen Gradually or Episodically?
Natural Selection Operating Above and Below the Level of the Individual Organism
Progress and the History of Life
Conclusions: Patterns and Processes of Increasing Complexity
Additional Reading
Extinctions: The Legacy of the Fossil Record
Boundaries in the Geological Time Scale and the Nature of Extinction
The Cretaceous-Tertiary Mass Extinction
How has the Existence of Mass Extinctions Influenced the History of Life?
Were Most Extinctions Caused by Asteroid Impact?
The Permo-Triassic Mass Extinction-Causes and Consequences
The Ordovician-Silurian Mass Extinction
Other Mass Extinction Events: The Late Devonian and the End of the Triassic
Habitat Degradation and Mass Extinctions
The Sixth Great Mass Extinction: The Current Biodiversity Crisis
Conclusions: Lessons from the Past and Future Prospects for Humanity
Additional Reading
Systematics and the Fossil Record
Methods and Approaches in Systematics
The Growth of Molecular Biology and Improvements in DNA Sequencing Technology
The Spread of Computers and Computer Programs Used to Study Evolutionary Relationships
Systematics and How to go About Identifying Species in the Fossil Record
Systematics and its Relevance for Identifying Patterns of Mass Extinction
Systematics and the Meaning of Adaptations
Concluding Remarks
Additional Reading
Principles of Growth and Form: Life, the Universe, and Gothic Cathedrals
Galileo's Principle
Galileo's Principle and its Relevance to the Biology of Living Organisms
Galileo's Principle and Constraints on the Evolution of Large Body Size
Galileo's Principle and its Relevance to Medieval Architecture
Galileo's Principle and its Relevance to Cratering Density in our Solar System
Concluding Remarks
Additional Reading
The Role of Fossils in the Genesis of Myths and Legends
Paleontologist's Have Come from Many Different Walks of Life and Have Sported Many Different Hairdos
Paleontology in Ancient Greece
Native American Contributions to Paleontology
Concluding Remarks
Additional Reading
Plate Tectonics and its Effects on Evolution
Early Ideas on Continents in Motion: Continental Drift
Plate Tectonics: Continental Drift in a Different Guise and with a Valid Mechanism
The Evolutionary Implications of Plate Tectonics
Concluding Remarks
Additional Reading
Life, Climate, and Geology
Some of the Major Factors that Govern the Climate System
Examples of How Life has Influenced Climate: The Difference Between the Proterozoic and the Permian
Life Influencing Geology: the Form and Shape of Rivers and the Rocks they Leave Behind
Plants, Oxygen, and Coal: More Examples of Life Affecting the Atmosphere and Geology
How Geology Affects Climate: Considering How Plate Tectonic Changes have Contributed to Climate Changes Over the Last 60 Million Years
Concluding Remarks
Additional Reading
Patterns and Processes of Precambrian Evolution
The Earliest Evidence for Life in the Geological Record
The Time of Pond Scum and the Rise of Oxygen
For Billions of Years Organisms Have Been Modifying the Atmosphere and Their Environment
More Effects of Rising Oxygen Levels
The Evolution of the Eukaryotic Cell
Concluding Remarks
Additional Reading
The Cambrian Radiation and Beyond: Understanding Biology's Big Bang
Life Before the Cambrian Radiation
The Burgess Shale and the Cambrian Radiation
The Ordovician Radiation and Concluding
Additional Reading
The Evolution and Extinction of Reefs Through Time: From the Precambrian to the Current Biodiversity Crisis
Reef-Forming Organisms Today
Cnidarians and Outer Space
How Modern Cnidarian Corals Feed
Reefs Through Geological Time
Corals and the Biodiversity Crisis
Lessons from Human Effects on Modern Reefs
Concluding Remarks
Additional Reading
Key Evolutionary Transitions: The Origins of Multicellularity and the Evolution of the Vertebrate Brain
Origins of Multicellularity
The Evolution of the Vertebrate Brain
Trends in Brain Size Within Primates and Hominids
Concluding Remarks
Additional Reading
Key Events in Vertebrate Evolution
Cambrian Origins
Major Groups of Chordates
The Vertebrates
Lobe-Finned Aquatic Vertebrates
The Origins and Evolution of the Tetrapods
Concluding Remarks
Additional Reading
Are We Alone in the Universe?
What is the Potential that Humans will Encounter Extraterrestrial Civilizations?
Radio Waves and the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence
Possible Evidence for Life in a Martian Meteorite?
Concluding Remarks
Additional Reading
Humanity: Origins and Prospects
How do New Species Evolve-The Shift from Chimps to Hominids
Humans in a Changing Climate
The Current Biodiversity Crisis
Mapping a Course for Future Changes-Climate and Life
Concluding Remarks
Additional Reading
Color plate section
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