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Next of Kin: Great Fossils at the American Museum of Natural History

Dingus, Lowell

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ISBN 10: 0847819922 / ISBN 13: 9780847819928
Published by Rizzoli Intl Pubns
New Condition: New Hardcover
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Bibliographic Details

Title: Next of Kin: Great Fossils at the American ...

Publisher: Rizzoli Intl Pubns

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:New

About this title


The Halls of Invertebrate Evolution at the American Museum of Natural History display the world's greatest fossil collection and have long been a treasured landmark in New York; they currently attract about 1.5 million visitors each year. Dinosaurs fascinate people of all ages. A look at the Museum's giant Barosaurus skeleton rising up on its hid legs to face a predator, or at the specimen of the fierce Tyrannosaurus rex, enables us to journey back in time to imagine even earlier animals that lived as long as hundreds of millions of years ago. Most fossils are not actual bones but mineralized replicas of an animal's hard parts, yet they enable us to see that vertebrate animals, including humans, share an evolutionary heritage that includes the smallest jawless fish who lived 500 million years ago as well as massive dinosaurs, and mammals of the Ice Age such as wooly mammoths and saber-toothed cats.

All of these specimens and hundreds more are collected in the spectacular, newly renovated fossil halls at the Museum. This book, liberally illustrated with beautiful new color and archival photography, and artwork and graphics produced especially for the renovated exhibits, is an in-depth look at the evolution of vertebrate animals in the collection. In an incisive, behind-the-scenes text, paleontologist Lowell Dingus discusses the earliest specimens: fish, amphibians, and primitive reptiles that represent evolutionary starting points for major groups; the popular saurischian dinosaurs, including the seventeen-ton Apatosaurus (once called Brontosaurus) skeleton; and ornithischian dinosaurs such as the horned Triceratops. He concludes with the mammal halls, where animals as diverse as the finbacked Dimetrodon, mastodons, and, after primates, our closest "next of kin"-- bats-- are shown to be related by one hole in the skull behind the eye socket. This modification illustrates the contemporary approach to evolution that readers will learn about called cladistics, which establishes animal relationships based on unique shared anatomical changes that were inherited over the course of time. The Museum galleries are organized to reflect how this approach has been used to reconstruct the family tree of vertebrate evolution: walking along the main pathway through the fossil halls is like walking along the trunk of the vertebrate evolutionary tree.

The first of the seven halls was opened in 1877 and featured ornate columns, ironworks, high ceilings, and large arched windows with spectacular views of Central Park. A ten-year restoration project has now returned the halls to their original grandeur and redesigned the fossil installations. This volume celebrates the dynamic fossil displays and the magnificent architecture of the American Museum of Natural History; it also introduces provocative questions about long-extinct species and the mysteries of life on Earth.

About the Author:

Dr. Lowell Dingus, a geological paleontologist, is project director for the fossil halls renovation at the American Museum of Natural History, where since 1987 he has overseen the development of exhibitions concerning vertebrate paleontology. Dr. Dingus was formerly a scientific coordinator and instructor at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. He has received several grants for field work and research, and his expeditions over the past fifteen years have ranged from the Gobi Desert badlands of Mongolia to the Hell Creek and Tullock Formations of Montana. Dr. Dingus is a frequent lecturer and has authored or co-authored several children's books, including What Color is that Dinosaur: Questions, Answers, and Mysteries (Millbrook Press, 1994), and Discovering Dinosaurs (Knopf, 1995), which won a Scientific American Young Reader's Award.

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