Jack's Stacks Logo

Paleo Library for the More Advanced

Last month I introduced this project with a promise to provide reviews of books on paleontological topics. I then presented my idea of a good basic library with token reviews. Since I am known for my ability to never actually get straight to the point, I am going to give my recommendations for a more advanced reference library this month, along with more token reviews.

A couple of notes concerning the books I list. I will only discuss books that I own or have read; there could very well be better volumes with which I am unfamiliar - after I read them I'll let you know. Secondly, I'll cover a number of out of print books; the most important thing to remember about these is that paleontological knowledge is continually advancing and you will need to be aware that older books may contain out of date information. Lastly, although I've again termed these first two articles as basic libraries, you could actually use the books through the U.C. Geology Library without actually owning them.

My current recommendations for a more advanced general library:

Boardman, Richard S., Cheetham, Alan H., and Rowell, Albert J., eds. Fossil Invertebrates. Palo Alto: Blackwell Scientific Publications, 1987.

This one's in print available through the publisher at about $50.00. At slightly over 700 pages, this book covers fossil invertebrates in more detail than the more basic texts listed last month. Although very readable, it contains more technical terms. Initial chapters cover paleoecology, evolution, preservation, classification, biostratigraphy, and paleobiogeography. Subsequent chapters cover the various invertebrate phyla and are each written by noted experts in the area discussed. Authors of note include John Pojeta (most mollusc sections) and Richard Osgood (trace fossils) both U.C. graduates. While the echinoderm section was written by James Sprinkle, Dave Meyer's work is referenced within. I originally bought this book because I was very impressed with the quality of the illustrations and diagrams. This one is well worth the price.

Tasch, Paul. Paleobiology of the Invertebrates. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1980.

I'm not certain whether this is still in print; if so, it's probably in the $50.00 range. This book is much more complicated than any mentioned thus far. The basic plan of the book is the discussion of the various fossil invertebrates, their living relatives, ecology and paleoecology, evolution, and what information can be deduced from the fossil record. This book is just shy of 1,000 pages and is not a casual reading experience. Check this one out in the library before you spend the fifty dollars.

Raup, David M. and Stanley, Steven M. Principles of Paleontology. San Francisco: W. H. Freeman, 1971.

This out of print volume is well worth seeking out. It is not a book about fossils. It is a book about paleontology as a science - how it works and how it is done. Chapter headings are: Preservation and the fossil record; Describing a single specimen; Ontogenetic variation; The population as a unit; The species as a unit; Grouping of species into higher categories; Identification of fossils [how to do it and present the results]; Adaptation and functional morphology; Paleoecology; Evolution and the fossil record; Biostratigraphy; and Uses of paleontologic data in geophysics and geochemistry. Many of the technical terms you will see in the professional literature are well defined in context; this alone makes it a worthwhile acquisition.

Kummel, Bernhard. History of the Earth. San Francisco: W. H. Freeman & Co., 1970.

Another out of print edition. It was originally published in 1961 and revised for the 1970 printing. Initial sections cover geologic time, the fossil record, and sedimentary rocks. The remainder describes each era in earth history for north america, the rest of the world, and indicative life forms. Since the book covers a broad range of topics, there is less detailed information on the actual fossils. The appendix includes correlation charts for the various periods so that one can relate references to stages and formations outside the U.S. with those used here (this can be helpful if you get really serious and begin to study specific fossil groups in detail). My only complaint about this volume concerns its treatment of continental drift as an interesting "hypothesis worthy of serious attention".

Click here to read the previous issue.Click here to read the next issue. Click Here for Book Title Index Click here to go to top of Author Index Click here to go to Issue Index