This past week, I had about 12 hours of driving round trip on a family vacation to visit family in Kentucky. As the miles drift by, I have become accustomed to passing the time by listening to audiobooks.
For this trip, I needed to get away from my comfort zone a little, and I chose “The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs” by Steve Brusatte. This book came out in spring 2018 with high praise. It also took a bit more than 10 hours to listen to, which fit my trip schedule nicely.
This book is part autobiography and part natural history. I must keep reminding myself of the latter because it is easy to forget dinosaurs were living, breathing creatures and not just sci-fi movie creations. Brusatte masterfully tells the story of dinosaurs through geologic time by scrutinizing the fossil record. I admit, I know very little about the field of paleontology.
One of the bi-products of the layout of the story is Brusatte is able to walk the listener-reader through major scientific breakthroughs in the field, while also giving colorful biographies of the important figures making those discoveries. Brusatte, himself, has studied across the globe and had great first-hand knowledge of the people and places he details, which gives him enormous storytelling power.
In the beginning of the book, you learn that dinosaurs were not dominant at all but rather the side car to many groups of animals that reigned in early geologic time. However, after a couple mass extinction events, the dinosaurs evolved and ascended to global dominance.
Throughout the timeline, Brusatte proposes and answers many questions such as, “How did dinosaurs get so big?” and “Which dinosaurs lived where and why?” Much more that I can’t spoil for you here.
The back third of the book addresses the time in which dinosaurs were at the peak of their power and complexity. From there, comes the famous asteroid and the aftermath. Mayhem across the globe that spells the end to dinosaurs as we knew them.
Most people think dinosaurs are extinct, but Brusatte says they absolutely are not. Birds, he says, are dinosaurs. He dedicates a healthy amount of time explaining this.
Most of the physical features that make up the bird body blueprint came from dinosaurs. Feathers and even wings are found on many different dinosaurs in the fossil record.
Scientists believe they originally were used for elaborate mating displays before then evolving as a tool for flight. Did you know that many of the largest dinosaurs, such as the T-Rex and Brontosaurus, had very efficient lungs that allowed them grow into huge sizes … modern day birds also have those same lungs, which allow them to fly fast and high. This discussion about birds alone is worth picking this book up.
I highly recommend this book. A topic that fascinates the imagination, but yet, dinosaurs were real, and this book is a great primer for what everyone should know about them.