Prehistoric Life: The Definitive Visual History of Life on Earth

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With an extensive catalog at its heart, Prehistoric Life profiles hundreds of fascinating species in incredible detail. The story starts in earnest 3.8 billion years ago, with the earliest-known form of life on Earth, a bacteria that still exists today, and journeys through action-packed millennia, charting the appearance of new life forms as well as devastating extinction events. Of course, the ever-popular and endlessly intriguing dinosaurs feature large, but Prehistoric Life gives you the whole picture, and the plants, invertebrates, amphibians, birds, reptiles, and mammals that are the ancestors of today's species also populate its pages, making this book unprecedented in its coverage of prehistory. Specially commissioned artworks use cutting-edge technology to render species in breathtakingly realistic fashion, with astonishing images of prehistoric remains, such as skeletons and fossils, to complete the story. To put all the evidence in context, the concept of geological time is explored, as is the classification of species and how the evidence for their evolution is preserved and can be deciphered.
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  • Prehistoric Life
    Prehistoric Life  

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
This 512-page visual guide encompasses 3.8 billion years of life on earth from microscopic primordial bacteria to giant dinosaurs and creatures beyond. Once again, the DK editors have surpassed themselves with an adroit combination of striking, cutting-edge illustrations, a clearly written text, and a wealth of fascinating sidebars.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780756655730
  • Publisher: DK Publishing, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/5/2009
  • Pages: 512
  • Sales rank: 132,960
  • Product dimensions: 12.10 (w) x 10.24 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

DK Publishing
DK Publishing is world renowned for its distinctive, highly visual books that inform, inspire, and entertain readers of all ages.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 21 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 22 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 9, 2010

    Visually breathtaking, scientifically sound, not just a coffee table book

    Having studied dinosaurs casually since I was a kid eons ago, I couldn't resist investing in Prehistoric Life. The images consist of fantastic photos of actual artifacts (fossils, skeletons), beautifully colored pictures and illustrations, and concise descriptions that seem scientifically sound to this Ph.D. chemist and contain a lot of new information and discoveries. The book is divided into a general section "Young Earth" which covers the formation of the planet, plate techtonics, mass extinctions and fossil formation and key fossil sites, "Life on Earth" which consists of a detailed collection of plant, invertebrate and vertebrate life divided by geologic period, which is presented after a brief overview that shows the land masses at the time and a timeline that shows the major events of that period in chronological order. The third and final major section of the book is "The Rise of the Humans" which covers the evolution of homo sapiens from human relatives and ancestors to the origins of modern humans, including chapters on migration, hunter-gathering, cave art and the ice age. The volume contains a glossary, dinosaur list, index and acknowledgements.
    I haven't decided yet how I will systematically read and enjoy this book because there is so much to it. Since I was most familiar with early sea life (trilobites, shelled organisms, fishes, etc.) through dinosaurs and mammals, I started there, picking images more or less at random, reading the captions, and following threads to answer any random questions that occurred. For example, I had read about Roy Chapman Andrews decades ago, best known for his field trips to Mongolia and the Gobi Desert where he discovered the first dinosaur eggs, and protoceratops (one of the small horned primitive ceratopsians). Prehistoric Life had a drawing of protoceratops, an acknowledgement of several different species and possible sexual variations, a photograph of the fossilized eggs found in the Gobi that were originally thought to be from Protoceratops, but are now assigned to Oviraptor (who had been thought to only be stealing eggs), and a photo of Andrews, who "is thought to be the inspiration for the movie character Indiana Jones." A second example--as a kid, I seem to remember having a plastic dinosaur that was identfied as kronosaurus, one of the plesiosaurs. Prehistoric Life shows that Kronosaurus was not as large as originally thought, and actually had a relatively short neck. On the same page is Elasmosaurus, which had an enormously long neck which, according to the text, had also been changed from what was origninally thought since the head had been mistakenly attached to the end of the tail. Most images of creatures show the size relative to man, the date within the geological period that it lived, where it lived (USA), and the approximate size (length). These two examples illustrate the ability of this book to answer my questions as they occurred, correct old misinformation with the most current scientific data, and raise possible new points of interest (Andrews = Indiana Jones?). I've just begun to explore the section on humans, but I expect the same result. There is an excellent human family tree that shows the skulls of most of the major ancestors of humans, defines the time line and relationships between each of the species. Many of these human ancestors are then discussed individually, with significant detail. Highly recommende

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 21, 2009

    Typically Superb DK Publication

    DK books are usually well organized, well illustrated and good browsing/reading. This is the best of several DK publications I have seen about dinosaurs/prehistoric life - their most thorough. It is one of the best of many books I have on this subject. Also useful and very interesting for students/younger readers. A definite reommend!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 25, 2012

    more from this reviewer


    This book is amazing, it's really detailed and has tons of pictures on every page. It's absolutely amazing, the only down sides are this:

    1. Many of the animals names are very hard to pronounce and the book doesn't teach you how to pronounce them and some of the organisms are hard to find on the net.

    2. The book is very heavy, it's about 7 pounds so it may take time getting used to.

    Aside from that, this book is highly recommend for any science or paleontologist , paleobonist, evolutionist or any dinosaur fan old or young.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Fantastic book

    this is a great starter book. i bought it cause it was useful to mean. i always wanted a book on dinosaurs and human evolution. it was simple. i bought another one like for my little brother

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 11, 2012

    WoW Barnes & Noble

    So, apparently Barnes & Noble wants me to write a review of a book that I pre-ordered which isn't even released yet. I won't have the book for another two months. Way to go B&N.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2011

    Super recomended

    A-Z to prehistorics. Good reference for kids.

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  • Posted March 25, 2011

    thorough coverage and includes bacteria nd plants

    Quite complete survey from bacteria, plants, dinosaurs, mammals, etc. I wish there were more drawings intead of boring looking fossils. Some of the drawings look familiar and may have come from previous DK books.

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  • Posted April 10, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Great Reference

    I have seen many books organized as this one is. I think it is a very good read and would be useful in a classroom setting. Very well illustrated and key points are noted next to the illustrations. Doesn't bog you down with a inside scientific jargon, but offers enough information to explain the points illustrated.

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  • Posted April 10, 2010

    The variety and quantity of prehistoric life.

    A veritable who's who of prehistoric life, huge in scope if a bit sparse in detail. Each chapter is a geologic era and is subdivided into plant life, invertebrates, and vertebrates both aquatic and land dwelling. Each plant or creature is illustrated with an artists rendering or photograph and a short descriptive paragraph, so the entire book reads a little like a catalog. The book does, however give a wonderful picture of the variety and complexity of life throughout the history of our planet, and serves as an excellent general reference.

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  • Posted March 10, 2010

    It's the Fossil Record!

    I had been wanting this book for a while since I am majoring in Biology. Once I received it I was thrilled! Not only does it seem like I should have payed way more for it, but it is also a great value because of the sheer size of it. It is well over 200 pages and the organization is very well done. The book is divided into the periods of time over Earth's vast history. It starts with a simple yet comprehensive overview of how life on Earth started and goes on to break into periods of life. In each period, they have divided the sections by a brief overview of the period and what was going on in Earth at the time. Then they discuss the invertebrates, vertebrates and microscopic life that was on Earth during the period.

    Each section is very thorough but not to the point where it reads like a textbook. Instead DK has provided little snipets about several organisms each with a picture and description. One feature I absolutely love is that they put a little symbol next to each organism letting you know how big it was compared to the size of a human hand or a full standing human. This really helps you visualize the size without having to rely on measurements alone. Most pictures are fossils, but there are also a lot of computer-made artwork showing what some organisms would have looked like when they were in existence. I love this part! Fossils are cool, but digital art is even cooler!
    I haven't read through the whole book yet, but I intend to. Right now I am reading it in order, as opposed to flipping around. It has so many interesting facts and includes so many organisms, it's like having the Museum of Natural History compiled in a book! If you don't like reading everything like me, you can always easily flip to whatever period you are interested in with their well-organized table of contents. They also include "see this page" references while discussing something relevant to lead you to the right page. I just love reading it in order because that way I can see how life on Earth progressed and diversified through time.

    This is a great book for any student, but especially those studying biology! I have read many things that help me with what I am learning. I would recommend this to anyone though. Our planet's history, essentially our species history, is so interesting and so complex. This book is like having the entire fossil record at your hands! It is a must for all studying the science of life!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2010

    Grandsons enjoyed paging through it.

    Nice design of material; handsome presentation.

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  • Posted January 9, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    great book

    I thought it was a very good book with very nice pictures but it'll take forever to read there is just so much information and the price was very good for a book of this nature.

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