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Sea Dragons: Predators of the Prehistoric Oceans

Overview

Working from the fossil record, Richard Ellis explores the natural history of these fierce predators, speculates on their habits, and tells how they eventually became extinct - or did they? He traces the 200-million-year history of the great ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, and mosasaurs who swam the ancient oceans - and who, according to some, may even still frequent the likes of Loch Ness.

The first book about these animals in nearly a century, Sea Dragons draws upon the most recent...

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Overview

Working from the fossil record, Richard Ellis explores the natural history of these fierce predators, speculates on their habits, and tells how they eventually became extinct - or did they? He traces the 200-million-year history of the great ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, and mosasaurs who swam the ancient oceans - and who, according to some, may even still frequent the likes of Loch Ness.

The first book about these animals in nearly a century, Sea Dragons draws upon the most recent scientific research to reconstruct their lives and habitats. Along the way, the book also provides insights into and tales about the work, discoveries, and competing theories that compose the world of vertebrate paleontology.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs and mosasaurs, oh, my! The prehistoric oceans and shallow seas that covered most of present-day North America and Europe were rife with such now-extinct monsters. They evolved from land reptiles that returned to the water, but they didn't all coexist: the ichthyosaurs, looking a lot like dolphins and most docile of the group, first appeared about 250 million years ago, followed by the plesiosaurs, which looked like swimming velociraptors; pliosaurs, first cousins to the plesiosaurs and able to take on a shark bigger than a great white; and finally the mosasaurs, almost 60 feet in length. Pliosaurs and mosasaurs went extinct at the same time as the last terrestrial dinosaurs, 65 million years ago. Acclaimed illustrator and author Ellis (The Empty Ocean) conducts an exhaustive and generously illustrated survey of what paleontologists know about these monsters of the deep. Many species are known only from a partial skeleton or two, so many questions remain, such as, how did they propel themselves though the water (some scientists guess that plesiosaurs propelled themselves like penguins or dolphins) and what does the gravel found near some fossils mean (perhaps the sea dragons used it for ballast, like modern-day crocodiles, or perhaps they used it in gizzard-like structures, like the chicken). One of the biggest unanswered questions about dinosaurs is what their skin looked like, but Ellis applies his imagination and extensive knowledge of maritime animals skillfully in the grayscale drawings that bring these creatures back to life. Casual dinosaur fans may find the dense detail tough going, but die-hard Jurassic buffs will want this for their collections. (Oct. 7) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
When dinosaurs walked the earth, giant sea reptiles ruled the ancient seas. Noted marine sciences author and artist Ellis (The Empty Ocean) examines the natural history of these extinct creatures, specifically ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, pliosaurs, and mosasaurs. He ably presents the changes in interpretation of fragmentary paleontologic data to identify and understand how the animals moved and fed, and his intricate line drawings help readers visualize what the animals might have looked like. Unfortunately, Ellis heavily ladens his text with quotations from the scientific literature, requiring him to explain these excerpts to lay readers. (His Aquagenesis did a better job explaining evolution and extinction issues.) Christopher McGowan's Dinosaurs, Spitfires and Sea Dragons is more readable but overlaps only in its treatment of the ichthyosaurs. Still, this is a very interesting and a thorough review of the subject, with frequent footnotes and an extensive bibliography. Recommended for larger public and academic libraries. (Index not seen.)-Jean E. Crampon, Science & Engineering Lib., Univ. of Southern California, Los Angeles Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700612697
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 9/10/2003
  • Pages: 312
  • Product dimensions: 7.28 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.03 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: Isn't That the Loch Ness Monster? 1
The Marine Reptiles: An Overview 17
The Ichthyosaurs 61
The Plesiosaurs 117
The Pliosaurs 165
The Mosasaurs 195
The "Reason" for Extinction 253
References 261
Index 291
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