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15 December 2022

Beasts Before Us, by Elsa Panciroli

So many books have been written about dinosaurs, but this one looks at a deeper history of another important group: our own. Beasts Before Us is “the untold story of mammal origins and evolution.” The Cenozoic is often dubbed “the age of mammals,” but the story of our hairy, milk-guzzling brethren goes much deeper into geologic time. There have sort of been two ages of “mammals,” author paleontologist Elsa Panciroli …

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7 December 2022

The coastal section at Esterillos Oeste, Costa Rica

Callan documents a geological stroll along the coast of Esterillos Oeste, in central southern Costa Rica, investigating the sequence of sediment in the Punta Judas Formation (Mid-Miocene) exposed there. Fossils, sedimentary structure, diagenetic features, structural deformation, and modern weathering all make prominent appearances.

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15 August 2022

Book report

Five books get the Callan mini-review treatment: two novels from Amor Towles, an account of life in prison under solitary confinement, a history of Virginia slavery during the War of 1812, and finally a family account of the discovery of the fossil Hesperornis, a toothed bird, and various associated tangents.

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11 October 2019

Friday fold: Watern Cove

A moderate mesoscale monocline at Watern Cove, Newfoundland, shows off multicellular animal fossils of the Ediacaran Mistaken Point Formation.

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3 April 2019

Squid Empire: The Rise and Fall of the Cephalopods, by Danna Staaf

Here’s a cool little book about the paleobiology, ecology, and behavior of cephalopods: Squid Empire. The author, Danna Staaf, has a PhD in marine biology and –more importantly– a lifelong fascination with squid, octopuses, cuttlefish, and nautiloids. This work is a history of the cephalopod clade – going back into deep time, before the Cambrian Explosion, dwelling on ancestral forms and luxuriating in the ammonites (now sadly extinct — or …

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2 April 2019

Spying on Whales, by Nick Pyenson

A book by Nick Pyenson (of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History) details the past, present, and future of whales. Combining paleontology, oceanography, environmental awareness, evolution, and history with personal stories of field work and insight, it’s a compelling tale of modern science on charismatic, mysterious creatures.

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20 March 2019

The Dinosaur Artist, by Paige Williams

A book review of Paige Williams’ “The Dinosaur Artist,” a tale of international trade in dinosaur skeletons.

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18 March 2019

New discoveries in the Martinsburg Formation

A virtual field trip to examine some deepwater clastic sediments shed off the first phase of Appalachian mountain building, and deformed in the third phase. It’s a lovely day for a field trip to the late Ordovician!

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11 February 2019

When Bugs Were Big, Plants Were Strange, and Tetrapods Stalked the Earth: A Cartoon Prehistory of Life Before Dinosaurs, by Hannah Bonner

It has been a while since I’ve reviewed any kids’ books here, but this one was so good that I just have to tell you about it. My son is now 6 and a half years old, and he’s interested in all sorts of natural history topics. Given that I’m a geologist, he’s probably more Earth-science-focused than the average kid, but my wife is a biologist, so he’s got plenty …

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19 December 2018

The 50 State Fossils: A Guidebook for Aspiring Paleontologists, by Yinan Wang

Here’s a kid’s book to consider for the holiday season:┬áThe 50 State Fossils: A Guidebook for Aspiring Paleontologists, written by Yinan Wang and illustrated by Jane Levy. It has a simple structure: each state gets a page, and that page is divided into four parts: a map of the state w/ areas highlighted showing where the fossil can be found, an illustration of the organism as it looked when it …

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