A Book by Charles River Editors
I’ve always been interested in Paleontology, and recently went down a rabbit hole in regards to the often ignored Triassic period, the period that eventually birthed the rise of the dinosaurs. Everyone knows about the later animals such as the Stegosaurus, Tyrannosaurus, Velociraptor etc. but most ignore the Triassic as being “unexciting” which is a HUGE shame. I started watching videos where people in the same boat as me started discussing animals of the Triassic Period and were flabbergasted by the “freak show” of utterly bizarre stuff that was around at that time. In looking for some kind of all-encompassing book on the period, I didn’t have much luck aside from huge full-on dinosaur books that likely skip over what I’m looking for or overly-dense scholarly journals that were FAR out of my price range, and likely not written for the layman. I settled on this small book by Charles River Editors as a way to dip my toe into the subject. These guys are one of many companies that produce quick specialized books for the Kindle market, but unlike others these seem to be written by a real person versus a re-tooling of a Wikipedia page as so many others do. I knew this wasn’t really what I was looking for, but it filled my desire to read about the subject for now.
“Scientists have long attempted to understand Earth’s past, and in service to that effort, they have divided the world’s history into eons, eras, periods, epochs and ages. For example, the current eon is called the Phanerozoic, which means “visible life.” This is the eon in which multi-cellular life has evolved and thrived. Before this, life was microscopic (single cell). The Phanerozoic eon is divided into 3 eras – Paleozoic (“old life”), Mesozoic (“middle life”) and Cenozoic (“new life”). From there, the Mesozoic era is divided into 3 periods – Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous. Before the Triassic, primitive life had built up in the oceans and seas, and some lifeforms finally had crawled onto land during the Paleozoic era. With that, life had become well established, but then came the Permian-Triassic mass extinction, the worst extinction event in the history of the planet. At the end of the Triassic, another extinction event cleared the way for dinosaurs to become the dominant set of species in the Jurassic. “
This book does a good job of explaining the conditions that created the wild evolutionary paths many animals followed during this time, namely the so-called “Great Dying”, an Extinction-Level Event at the end of the Permian Period that killed upwards of 95% of ocean life and 75% of terrestrial life on the planet. This allowed many “weird” creatures to take footholds and specialize in ways they likely would not have if such post-apocalyptic conditions were initially not present. There are numerous pictures and the majority of the book walks the reader through these topics in an ordered way that makes this a fun quick read. There is a bit of random specialist lingo in the middle talking about additions to various taxonomies that I assume resulted from the author lifting information from one of their sources that seemed a tad out of place, but otherwise it flows well.
I think my favorite part of the book was likely when the book would go into information regarding the break-up of Pangaea, the one-time massive supercontinent that once covered the earth, including the various theories into what caused it to start happening. I’m sure that something like a huge meteor crashing into the Earth and causing continents to fracture is a fringe theory of sorts, but it made an interesting read. This isn’t the only theory expressed, and the author clearly discusses this as a theory, I just wish they would have gone into the who’s and why’s of these various topics, because to the untrained eye, one could take information like this as some sort of established scientific fact.
My only issue with books from Charles River Editors is that they are somewhat lacking for such a big topic as this, but are pretty solid for smaller topics that may not have many sources. Last year, I read one of their books on The so-called Mormon Wars, and found it very informative. This however is decent, but is written somewhat in the tone of section in a high school science textbook and lacks the authority I usually like in my books of this nature. That isn’t to discredit the information in this book, as what we have is definitely a good jumping on point for the topic. Overall, this was worth a read as a “starter” book on the topic, and it gives me ideas of how I should proceed on my quest. For a 75 page book one can read for free on Kindle Unlimited, or purchase for a few dollars, this was a successful book.