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Earth Science


Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Paleontological Data Analysis by Oyvind Hammer, David A. T. Harper (Blackwell Publishing Professional) During the last 10 years numerical methods have begun to dominate paleontology. These methods now reach far beyond the fields of morphological and phylogenetic analyses to embrace biostratigraphy, paleobiogeography, and paleoecology. The availability of cheap computing power, together with a wide range of software products, have made increasingly complex algorithms accessible to the vast majority of paleontologists.

Paleontological Data Analysis explains the key numerical techniques in paleontology, and the methodologies employed in the software packages now available. Following an introduction to numerical methodologies in paleontology, and to univariate and multivariate techniques (including inferential testing), are chapters on morphometrics, phylogenetic analysis, paleobiogeography and paleoecology, time series analysis, and quantitative biostratigraphy. Each chapter describes a range of techniques in detail, with worked examples, illustrations, and appropriate case histories. The purpose, type of data required, functionality, and implementation of each technique are described, together with notes of caution where appropriate.Paleontological Data Analysis is an invaluable tool for all students and researchers involved in quantitative paleontology. 

The Human Fossil Record, Craniodental Morphology of Early Hominids and Overview by Jeffrey H Schwartz, Ian Tattersall (The Human Fossil Record: Wiley-Liss) The Human Fossil Record series is the most authoritative and comprehensive documentation of the fossil evidence relevant to the study of our evolutionary past. It fills the critical need for a complete resource that provides detailed morphological descriptions based on uniformly applied protocols, along with all new photographs taken exclusively for the series. This fourth volume covers the craniodental remains of early hominids of the genera Australopithecus, Paranthropus, Orrorin, as well as providing a concluding survey of hominid craniodental morphologies.

In this monumental and groundbreaking new series, the authors use clearly defined terminology and descriptive protocols that are applied uniformly throughout. Organized alphabetically by site name, with detailed morphological descriptions and original, expertly taken photographs, each entry features:

  • Morphology

  • Location information

  • History of discovery

  • Previous systematic assessments of the fossils

  • Geological, archaeological, and faunal contexts

  • Dating

  • References to the primary literature

The Human Fossil Record series is truly a must-have reference for anyone interested in the study of human evolution.


Fossils at a Glance by Clare Milsom & Susan Rigby (At a Glance Series: Blackwell Publishing) Fossils provide a powerful tool for the study of the nearly 4-billion-year history of life, and its role in the evolution of Earth systems. Fossils also provide important data for evolutionary studies, and contribute to our understanding of the extinction of organisms and the origins of modern biodiversity. As indicators of past environments and through their ability to define a high-resolution relative timescale, fossils make a vital contribution to the earth and environmental sciences. Furthermore, fossils provide a narrative for life on Earth and reveal how life has adapted to different environments and responded to the challenges of a dynamic system. The natural experiment of life on Earth is currently the only window onto the ways in which life changes in response to external pressure, and also the only window onto how life can change a planet.

Fossils at a Glance, by Clare Milsom, Principal Lecturer in the School of Biological and Earth Sciences at Liverpool John Moores University , UK and Sue Rigby, Senior Lecturer in the School of Geosciences , University of Edinburgh , UK , is written for students taking an introductory level course in paleontology. Short chapters introduce the main topics in the modern study of fossils. The most important fossil groups are discussed, from microfossils through invertebrates to vertebrates and plants, followed by a brief narrative of life on Earth.

In Fossils at a Glance, information about fossils is arranged in 16 short chapters. The first chapter explains what fossils are and gives a broad outline of their uses. Chapter 2 deals with evolution, classification, and the biological basis of change with time. Chapters 3-10 deal with each of the most important invertebrate fossil groups, starting with the simplest, sponges, and finishing with the most closely related to vertebrates, graptolites. Such an emphasis on invertebrates reflects the relative weight given to these groups in most taught courses in paleontology. Following this are chapters on vertebrates, land plants, microfossils and trace fossils. The two final chapters, 15 and 16, set out the major biological events of the Precambrian and Phanerozoic and sketch the relationship between the evolution of Earth and of its cohort of organisms.

The text is most memorable for its unique organization, which helps the reader access the wealth of palaeontological information. Each chapter is self-contained and pages are arranged in such a way that a particular topic is con­fined to two facing pages, for example, all of the information on rugose corals is organized on pp. 24 and 25. This means that the book can be used in laboratory classes, where diagrams can be compared with the morphology of real specimens. In addition, putting the information into small compartments means that most sections can be read by themselves, rather than the book needing to be read cover to cover, or a whole chapter at a time, thus the book is called Fossils at a Glance.


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