Horns, Tusks, and Flippers
The Evolution of Hoofed Mammals
Since the extinction of the dinosaurs, hoofed mammals have been the planet's dominant herbivores. Native to all continents except Australia and Antarctica, they include not only even-toed artiodactyls (pigs, hippos, camels, deer, antelopes, giraffes, sheep, goats, and cattle) and odd-toed perissodactyls (horses and rhinos), but also tethytheres (elephants and their aquatic relatives, manatees and seas cows) and cetaceans (whales and dolphins), which descended from hoofed land mammals. Recent paleontological and biological discoveries have deepened our understanding of their evolution and in some cases have made previous theories obsolete. In Horns, Tusks, and Flippers, Donald R. Prothero and Robert M. Schoch present a compelling new evolutionary history of these remarkable creatures, combining the latest scientific evidence with the most current information about their ecology and behavior.
Using an approach based on cladistics, the authors consider both living and extinct ungulates. Included in their discussion are the stories of rhinos, whose ancestors include both dinosaur-sized hornless species and hippo-like river waders; elephants, whose earliest ancestors had neither tusks nor trunks; and whales, whose descent from hoofed mesonychids has never properly been described for the lay audience. Prothero and Schoch also update the evolutionary history of the horse, correcting the frequent errors made in textbooks and popular works, and they make available to the general public new evidence about the evolution of camels, horned antelopes, and cattle. In addition, they raise important conservation issues and relate anecdotes of significant fossil finds.
Scientifically accurate and up to date, generously illustrated, and clearly written, Horns, Tusks, and Flippers is a useful and much-needed resource for specialists in the fields of paleontology, zoology, ecology, and evolutionary biology, as well as for general readers interested in learning more about the story of life on earth.
About the Authors
Donald R. Prothero is a professor of geology at Occidental College. Robert M. Schoch is on the faculty of the College of General Studies at Boston University.
A highly readable and enjoyable account full of historical anecdotes, scientific discovery, and biological detail... This is one of those rare books that is both fun to read and informative. Highly recommended for both specialists and general readers.
To learn about these mammals—from arsinoitheres, brontotheres, chalicotheres, dugongs, and elephants to yaks and zebras—this is the place to turn.
We live in a world where most of the attention gets grabbed by the carnivores—and mammals are no exception. We have TV shows entitled 'Fangs' but none (alas) called 'Molars,' and the hoofed mammals are often regarded as little more than fodder. Prothero and Schoch have done much to redress the imbalance with their new book. They encompass the span of the radiation of hoofed mammals (including, perhaps surprisingly to many people, whales and dolphins), covering both the interrelationships and ecology of the living species and the diversity and probable lifestyles of the extinct ones, interwoven with entertaining subplots about the history of fossil discoveries and naturalists' observations and stories from the field.
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the morphological perspective on the evolution of hoofed mammals and particularly to those wanting to learn more about the fossil record of individual clades. It is enjoyable and informative.
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