Let’s see … The Triassic is about here:

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(You can also look it up in this PDF file supplied by the USGS.

It is situated between two major extinction events, and is especially interesting because it is during this period that modern day ecological systems and major animal groups took a recognizable form. The preceding Permian, if contrasted with modern day, would form a very stark contrast while the Triassic would be at least somewhat more recognizable.

But of course the Triassic was in many ways distinct, different, and fascinating. Dinosaurs arose during the Triassic. The Triassic is also famous for its enormously large insects. It was also the time of Pangaea, where most of the Earth’s land was concentrated instead of being more or less spread out as it is now. Mammals, or at least the progenitors of what we now know of as mammals, arose then as well.

The Triassic was hot compared to today, and dry. Lots of sandy, arid-land deposits visible today date from this period. The poles were temperate, and the middle regions of the one giant continent was probably … very continental (mainly, dry).

So, all this adds up to the simple fact that the Triassic was a very interesting time period, and I assume that you would like to know a lot more about it. That would be where the new book, Triassic Life on Land: The Great Transition, comes in. This new volume in a series on “Critical Moments and Perspectives in Earth History and Paleobiology” (of which there are several other interesting must-have installments) comes in.

Sues and Fraser’s accessibly priced volume is neither a popularization of palaeontology nor a monotonous monograph of esoterica. It is a scholarly but readable detailed yet succinct description of this incredibly interesting time period. This is the kind of book that you will sit down to relax with, but do so with a pack of post-it notes handy just in case you need to mark something. Triassic Life .. is sufficiently detailed and well documented (excellent references and index) to be used as a textbook in a middle level palaeontology course, and sufficiently engaging for you to use as a source book for your next cocktail party.

The authors are widely recognized and respected experts in their field. The publisher did an excellent job with the book, which is very heavily illustrated and well laid out. Yet, most of the illustration are very nicely done line drawings and black and white photos, which keeps the price of this volume down despite the nice paper and excellent binding.

The book has eleven chapters, seven of which serve as mini-monographs of specific Triassic sub periods in specific geographical locations (such as “Late Middle and Late Triassic of Gondwana” and “Late Triassic of the Western United States”). Each of these chapters gives the basic information on where, when, and what for that particular subset of paleontological phenomena. Chapter 9, “Two Extraordinary Windows into Triassic Life” focus on two cases of Konzentrat-Lagerst├Ątten (places of especially good preservation or richness): Solite Quarry in the eastern US and Madygen in Central Asia. Triassic insects. Very nice.

Chapter 10 is an overview of the large scale pattern of biological change during the period, and Chapter 11 examines the Triassic end-times, exploring the possibility of an end-Triassic impact, and other issues.

If you have an evolution-oriented relative or friend who’s birthday is coming up, now’s your chance: The book is new enough and specialized enough that there is no way they’d have it already. And, it looks enough like a coffee table book that others looking on will see it as a great gift even if it is a bit over the top in geek points.

    Current ye@r *