Top 2016 Palaeontology Books

These are my top twenty palaeontology books published in 2016. Obviously you will find something for any interest here. There is an unusual concentration of dinosaur books because of my work with school kids, but most of the books on palaeontological theory, practice, and more interesting lineages. YMMV, and they are not ranked in any way. Included is the text blurb; personal review available on request!

Want more book recommendations? Check out the other top 2016 book lists: Zoology; Invertebrates; Arthropods; Vertebrates; Humans and Primates; Phylogenetics; Evolution; Ecology; Geology; Historical Geology; Botany; Environmental; Climate Change; History; Philosophy.


  • After the mass extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, mammals became the dominant terrestrial life form on our planet. Roaming the earth were spectacular beasts such as saber-toothed cats, giant mastodonts, immense ground sloths, and gigantic giraffe-like rhinoceroses. The Princeton Field Guide to Prehistoric Mammals is the ultimate illustrated field guide to the lost world of these weird and wonderful prehistoric creatures.


  • The aim of the Atlas of Taphonomic Identifications is to provide images of taphonomic modifications, making it as comprehensive as possible with evidence presently available. This volume is intended both as a field guide for identifying taphonomic modifications in the field, and for use in the laboratory when collections of fossils are being analyzed. Images in the book are a combination of scanning electron micrographs, regular photographs, cross-sections of bones and line drawings and graphs. By providing good quality illustrations of taphonomic modifications, with links between similar types of modification, the atlas provides a reference source for identifying the agents responsible for the modifications, the processes by which they were formed, and the potential bias introduced by the processes.


  • Early Evolutionary History of the Synapsida showcases the full breadth of contemporary research on non-mammalian synapsids, ranging from taxonomy and phylogenetics to functional morphology, biogeography, paleoecology and patterns of diversity.


  • Birds of Stone makes visible the unexpected avian diversity that blanketed the earth just a short time (geologically speaking) after a dinosaur lineage gave rise to the first birds. Our visual journey through these fossils is guided by Luis M. Chiappe, a world expert on early birds, and Meng Qingjin, a leading figure in China’s natural history museum community. Together, they help us understand the “meaning” of each fossil by providing straightforward narratives that accompany the full-page photographs of the Jehol discoveries.


  • Cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) have fascinated and bewildered humans throughout history. Their mammalian affinities have been long recognized, but exactly which group of terrestrial mammals they descend from has, until recently, remained in the dark. Recent decades have produced a flurry of new fossil cetaceans, extending their fossil history to over 50 million years ago. Along with new insights from genetics and developmental studies, these discoveries have helped to clarify the place of cetaceans among mammals, and enriched our understanding of their unique adaptations for feeding, locomotion and sensory systems. Their continuously improving fossil record and successive transformation into highly specialized marine mammals have made cetaceans a textbook case of evolution – as iconic in its own way as the origin of birds from dinosaurs. Cetacean Paleobiology aims to summarize our current understanding of cetacean evolution for the serious student and interested amateur using photographs, drawings, charts and illustrations.


  • Paleoecology

    by Jeffery Clarke [Syrawood Publishing House, Hardcover]
    Price: $107.07 £84.46 EUR 99,15 EUR 97,27 EUR 96,44 EUR 99,15 CDN$ 135.30

  • Paleoecology is the branch of ecology that studies the relationships between prehistoric living organisms and their environment, using fossils and prehistoric remains as evidences. The main objective of this discipline is to understand the various geological and biological cycles and interpret their interactions. This book provides significant information of this field to help develop a good understanding of marine and terrestrial environments, adaptation and preadaptation, paleoecological reconstructions, and related fields. It strives to provide a fair idea about this subject and to help gain a better insight into the latest advances within this field.


  • Paleoecology is a discipline that uses evidence from fossils to provide an understanding of ancient environments and the ecological history of life through geological time. This text covers the fundamental approaches that have provided the foundation for present paleoecological understanding, and outlines new research areas in paleoecology for managing future environmental and ecological change. Topics include the use of actualism in paleoecology, development of paleoecological models for paleoenvironmental reconstruction, taphonomy and exceptional fossil preservation, evolutionary paleoecology and ecological change through time, and conservation paleoecology. Data from studies of invertebrates, vertebrates, plants and microfossils, with added emphasis on bioturbation and microbial sedimentary structures, are discussed. Examples from marine and terrestrial environments are covered, with a particular focus on periods of great ecological change, such as the Precambrian-Cambrian transition and intervals of mass extinction.


  • Paleomicrobiology of Humans

    by Michel Drancourt [Amer Society for Microbiology, Paperback]
    Price: $55.93 £44.07 EUR 58,30 EUR 59,15 EUR 59,19 EUR 63,17 CDN$ 60.00

  • Recent technology has allowed microbiologists, anthropologists and disease historians to examine fossil remains, whether of humans, animals, or plants. By sequencing DNA researchers can determine whether the diseases from which remains died are the same diseases present today, or early strains no longer present, or even whether they were diseases that have vanished for unknown reasons (and may have the potential to return). The revelations are of the highest interest in their own right, but they also reveal much about human evolution, human migrations, human settlement and occupations, and the interactions among humans, animals and plants. The results of this field, only recently brought into being, have helped to clarify some long-standing issues, such as when tuberculosis began to afflict humans and the obscure and controversial origins of syphilis. Paleomicrobiology of Humans addresses the larger issues being addressed by paleomicrobiology, reviews the technical approaches and controversies attendant upon recovering and sequencing very old DNA, and surveys a number of modern diseases of humans with ancient roots. This volume will be of very great interest to microbiologists, anthropologists and medical historians.


  • Dinosaurs: A Concise Natural History

    by David E. Fastovsky [Cambridge University Press, Paperback]
    Price: $51.57 £35.36 EUR 50,03 EUR 41,99 EUR 48,78 EUR 51,29 CDN$ 70.72

  • The ideal textbook for non-science majors, this lively and engaging introduction encourages students to ask questions, assess data critically and think like a scientist. Building on the success of the previous editions, Dinosaurs has been reorganised and extensively rewritten in response to instructor and student feedback. It continues to make science accessible and relevant through its clear explanations and extensive illustrations. Updated to reflect recent fossil discoveries and to include new taxa, the text guides students through the dinosaur groups, emphasising scientific concepts rather than presenting endless facts. It is grounded in the common language of modern evolutionary biology – phylogenetic systematics – so that students examine dinosaurs as professional paleontologists do. The key emerging theme of feathered dinosaurs, and the many implications of feathers, have been integrated throughout the book, highlighted by the inclusion of stunning new photographs in this beautifully illustrated text, now in full colour throughout.


  • In Dinosaurs you’ll learn all the gory details about geology, anatomy, evolution, astronomy, and even Native American and Chinese mythology. Stories of harrowing paleontological expeditions conjure the thrills of history’s most famous dinosaur hunters. Highlights of recent research reveal what’s going on in the world of dinosaurs today, including scientists’ recent discovery of pigments embedded in dinosaur fossils that shed light, for the first time, on dinosaurs’ true coloration. Illustrations on virtually every page bring these prehistoric creatures to life in all their razor-sharp, long-necked, spiny, scaly glory.


  • Origins: The Search for Our Prehistoric Past

    by Frank H. T. Rhodes [Comstock Publishing Associates, Hardcover]
    Price: $10.99 £15.51 EUR 18,77 EUR 20,48 EUR 20,58 EUR 21,50 CDN$ 29.66

  • In Origins, Frank H. T. Rhodes explores the origin and evolution of living things, the changing environments in which they have developed, and the challenges we now face on an increasingly crowded and polluted planet. Rhodes argues that the future well-being of our burgeoning population depends in no small part on our understanding of life’s past, its long and slow development, and its intricate interdependencies.


  • Using a series of case studies, the book demonstrates the power of dynamic analysis as applied to the fossil record. Written in an engaging and informative style, Dynamic Paleontology outlines the best application of quantitative and other tools to critical problems in the paleontological sciences including such topics as analysis of the Cambrian Explosion and the question regarding the presence of life on Mars. The book considers how we think about certain types questions and shows how we can refine our approach to analysis right from the beginning of any particular research effort. The analytical tools presented here will have wide application to other fields of knowledge; as such the book represents a major contribution to our deployment of modern scientific method.


  • Knowledge of the evolutionary history of birds has much improved in recent decades. Fossils from critical time periods are being described at unprecedented rates and modern phylogenetic analyses have provided a framework for the interrelationships of the extant groups. This book gives an overview of the avian fossil record and its paleobiological significance, and it is the only up-to-date textbook that covers both Mesozoic and more modern-type Cenozoic birds in some detail. The reader is introduced to key features of basal avians and the morphological transformations that have occurred in the evolution towards modern birds. An account of the Cenozoic fossil record sheds light on the biogeographic history of the extant avian groups and discusses fossils in the context of current phylogenetic hypotheses. This review of the evolutionary history of birds not only addresses students and established researchers, but it may also be a useful source of information for anyone else with an interest in the evolution of birds and a moderate background in biology and geology.


  • Dinosaurs are one of the most spectacular groups of animals that have ever existed. Many were fantastic, bizarre creatures that still capture our imagination: the super-predator Tyrannosaurus, the plate-backed Stegosaurus, and the long-necked, long-tailed Diplodocus. Dinosaurs: The Ultimate Guide to How They Lived taps into our enduring interest in dinosaurs, shedding new light on different dinosaur groups. Leading paleontology experts Darren Naish and Paul Barrett trace the evolution, anatomy, biology, ecology, behavior, and lifestyle of a variety of dinosaurs. They also remind us that dinosaurs are far from extinct: they present evidence supporting the evolution of dinosaurs to birds that exist today as approximately ten thousand different species. Throughout their narrative Naish and Barrett reveal state-of-the-art new findings shaping our understanding of dinosaurs. Readers will discover, for example, how the use of CT-scanning enables scientists to look inside dinosaur skulls, thus gaining new insight into their brains and sense organs. Dinosaurs is a must-have for all those wanting to keep up to date about these dynamic, complicated creatures.


  • After outlining views of the Modern Synthesis of evolutionary disciplines and detailing the development within paleobiology of quantitative methods for documenting and analyzing variation within fossil assemblages, contributors explore the challenges of recognizing and defining species from fossil specimens and offer potential solutions. Addressing both the tempo and mode of speciation over time, they show how with careful interpretation and a clear species concept, fossil species may be sufficiently robust for meaningful paleobiological analyses. Indeed, they demonstrate that the species concept, if more refined, could unearth a wealth of information about the interplay between species origins and extinctions, between local and global climate change, and greatly deepen our understanding of the evolution of life.


  • Paleontologists and geologists struggle with research questions often complicated by the loss or even absence of key paleobiological and paleoenvironmental information. Insight into this missing data can be gained through direct exploration of analogous living organisms and modern environments. Creative, experimental and interdisciplinary treatments of such ancient-Earth analogs form the basis of Lessons from the Living. This volume unites a diverse range of expert paleontologists, neontologists and geologists presenting case studies that cover a spectrum of topics, including functional morphology, taphonomy, environments and organism-substrate interactions.


  • Scandinavia and its Arctic territories of Svalbard and Greenland represent geographical regions with a long history of Mesozoic paleontology. However the last few decades have witnessed a surge of new discoveries, especially from the famous Triassic and Late Jurassic Lagerstätten of East Greenland and Spitsbergen in the Svalbard Archipelago, together with the Late Cretaceous strata of southern Sweden and UNESCO World Heritage locality at Stevns Klint in Denmark; the latter recording one of the most complete terminal Mesozoic rock successions known globally. Collectively, these deposits encompass the spectrum of Mesozoic biotic evolution from the explosive radiation of marine faunas after the Permian-Triassic extinction and seminal specialization of amniotes for life in the sea, to the Late Triassic Jurassic domination of the land by dinosaurs and Cretaceous development of modern terrestrial floras and marine ecosystems. This volume authored by leading experts in the field encapsulates key aspects of the latest research, and will provide a benchmark reference for future investigations into the Scandinavian Mesozoic world.