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Pterosaurs: Natural History, Evolution, Anatomy [Hardcover]

Mark P. Witton
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
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Book Description

23 Jun 2013 0691150613 978-0691150611

For 150 million years, the skies didn't belong to birds--they belonged to the pterosaurs. These flying reptiles, which include the pterodactyls, shared the world with the nonavian dinosaurs until their extinction 65 million years ago. Some pterosaurs, such as the giant azhdarchids, were the largest flying animals of all time, with wingspans exceeding thirty feet and standing heights comparable to modern giraffes. This richly illustrated book takes an unprecedented look at these astonishing creatures, presenting the latest findings on their anatomy, ecology, and extinction.

Pterosaurs features some 200 stunning illustrations, including original paintings by Mark Witton and photos of rarely seen fossils. After decades of mystery, paleontologists have finally begun to understand how pterosaurs are related to other reptiles, how they functioned as living animals, and, despite dwarfing all other flying animals, how they managed to become airborne. Here you can explore the fossil evidence of pterosaur behavior and ecology, learn about the skeletal and soft-tissue anatomy of pterosaurs, and consider the newest theories about their cryptic origins. This one-of-a-kind book covers the discovery history, paleobiogeography, anatomy, and behaviors of more than 130 species of pterosaur, and also discusses their demise at the end of the Mesozoic.

  • The most comprehensive book on pterosaurs ever published
  • Features some 200 illustrations, including original paintings by the author
  • Covers every known species and major group of pterosaurs
  • Describes pterosaur anatomy, ecology, behaviors, diversity, and more
  • Encourages further study with 500 references to primary pterosaur literature

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Frequently Bought Together

Pterosaurs: Natural History, Evolution, Anatomy + A Field Guide to Mesozoic Birds and Other Winged Dinosaurs + Dinosaur Art: The World's Greatest Paleoart
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (23 Jun 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691150613
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691150611
  • Product Dimensions: 29.5 x 21.5 x 2.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 84,001 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


"A comprehensive introduction. . . . Witton manages to make this an attractive book for the layperson and bring these flying fossils to life."--Natural History

"Witton's new tribute to pterosaurs gives these fantastic fossil creatures a much-needed makeover in two crucial ways. Not only does the book bring the science of pterosaurs up to date--at long last following-up other classics such as David Unwin's The Pterosaurs and Peter Wellenhofer's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Pterosaurs--but Witton is a highly-skilled and imaginative artist who ably reconstructs the bones of the animals and brings them back to life in startling poses. Witton's pterosaurs are fantastical creatures deserving their own time in the spotlight. . . . Witton's combination of style and substance makes Pterosaurs a true treasure and an absolute must for anyone curious about the extinct flyers."--Brian Switek, National

"This really is the ultimate guide to pterosaurs, providing us with a richer view of pterosaur diversity and behaviour than allowed in the two previous great volumes on the group (Wellnhofer 1991, Unwin 2005) and containing a substantial amount of review and analysis of pterosaur ecology and functional morphology."--Darren Naish, Scientific American

"A solid review of the whole of the Pterosauria that'll be genuinely useful for researchers for many years. I'm sure I'll be typing 'Witton, (2013) stated . . .' quite a lot in the future and that, if anything, should be a good measure of how I rate this as a scientific text. Now go buy a copy and read it, it really is very good."--Dave Hone, Pterosaur.Net

"[Witton] presents the uncertainties of science but never shies away from making his opinion clear. [He] respects the complexities [of scientific writing] without allowing them to clump up the text. . . . I can wholeheartedly recommend the book already."--David Mass, DRIP

"Pterosaurs would make an excellent addition to any reference collection and especially that of an advanced (adult or young adult) lay-reader."--Greg Leitich Smith, GSL Blog

"I can tell you that it is not only a fascinating bit of text, its illustrations will leave you gaping in awestruck amazement."--John E. Riutta, Well-read Naturalist

"[Witton] combines his deep knowledge of the subject as a palaeontologist at the University of Portsmouth (U.K.) with his skills as an artist, and he has a flair for informal but accurate writing. His 292-page book is the most comprehensive and authoritative book to come along since Peter Wellnhofer's classic Illustrated Encyclopedia of Pterosaurs back in 1991."--James Gurney, artist and author of the Dinotopia book series

"The joy of Pterosaurs is how it brings long extinct animals to life."--Jeff Hecht, New Scientist

"Learn all about flying reptiles in this artfully illustrated overview of pterosaur research."--Science News

"Highly recommended."

"Once dragons flew through Mesozoic skies! They were pterosaurs, and Witton offers a rich and extensive account of what science knows about these extinct creatures. . . . For those who want an introduction to flying reptiles or the craft of scientific research, this title is a great choice."--Eileen H. Kramer, Library Journal

"Beautifully laid out, clearly written, loaded with handsome illustrations, Witton's book invites you to dip in for delicious tidbits or hunker down for the equivalent of a superb lecture series."--Wilson's Bookmarks, Christianity Today

"This is a book of impeccable scholarship, but it is also very readable for the non-scholar and amateur pterosaurophile. . . . A wonderful book!"--Rabbi Dr Charles H Middleburgh, Middleburgh Blog

"Though the writing style clearly targets the book to nonexperts, it does not dilute its realized value for professional paleontologists or teachers of paleontology. This is a very skillful presentation: a brief introductory paragraph or two leads quickly into an advanced discussion. The illustrations are excellent, including nice reconstructions by the author and very high-quality photographic reproductions of original key fossils. Overall, this is a very well-done book that belongs in any library with a vertebrate paleontology collection."--Choice

"Although the text is mostly technical, directed at an informed audience, it is written with a humorous slant. Everyone will get something out of reading this book. . . . This is a fantastic book!"--Randy Lauff, Canadian Field Naturalist

"Witton's Pterosaurs is a remarkable visual feast, packed full of novel art as well as excellent photographs that the author clearly worked hard to obtain. There are, in fact, illustrations of some sort on virtually every single page--you will never get bored of looking at this book. . . . If you like or are even vaguely interested in pterosaurs, you really need this book."--Darren Naish, Historical Biology

From the Inside Flap

"This book is both academically interesting and truly fun to read. That is a difficult balance to reach, but Witton does an excellent job of it by using a lighthearted, informal writing style in combination with a well-referenced, serious scientific review. An invaluable reference."--Michael Habib, University of Southern California

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book 24 Jun 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Pterosaurs are perhaps the most interesting, bizarre, extraordinary and extreme of any extinct animals, and have been the subject of some of the finest books, combining popular science with academic rigour, on any palaeontological subject. Peter Wellnhoffers "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Pterosaurs" (1991) is regarded by some - including myself - as the best of all such books, and David Unwin's "The Pterosaurs: From Deep Time" (2005) a worthy successor. When Mark Witton set out to write a book on pterosaurs, it must have been a daunting prospect to match the quality of older works.

He has succeeded admirably. It may seem unnecessary to publish a new volume on pterosaurs only a few years after Unwin's but, as Witton makes clear, the volume of new finds and the light they cast on existing material makes it a timely addition to the literature. Of particular note is the recent discovery of pterosaur eggs which have had a considerable impact on our understanding of pterosaur behaviour and growth.

The first few chapters cover general areas such as the history of pterosaur research, a overview of their anatomy and what can be deduced of their behaviour and flying abilities. They introduce a relatively high level of technical detail, but general readers should not be put off by this as it gives the information necessary to understand some of the detail in subsequent chapter.

The chapter on pterosaur diversity forms a link to chapters on particular clades which form most of the book. Each of these chapters describes the taxonomic relationships of the clade and how it has been interpreted by different authors. The fossils are described and in many cases illustrated with both drawings and photographs, and from this what is understood of their anatomy.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By H. A. Weedon VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The readability of this beautifully illustrated work by Mark P Witton, whose 'flippant prose has been turned into something that reads like science' (his words, not mine) by a lady called Sheila Dean, is first-rate. Mr Witton certainly has a great enthusiasm for his subject which is infectious and I found this book easy to read and absorb. He does all his own illustrations which are not only superb, but also inspiringly helpful.

Apparently, our knowledge of pterosaurs has developed at a rocketing rate over the past 25 years as more and more fossil remains of them have been discovered. We now know beyond all reasonable doubt that pterosaurs were covered in something after the fashion of fine hair and that they were very probably hot-blooded. This book also answers a question that has always puzzled me: why are pterosaur wing membranes attached to just the one elongated finger - the one corresponding to our little finger, in fact - and not to several fingers as in bats? The answer is because, when pterosaurs were on the ground, they moved around on all fours and needed the other fingers free to form front feet for walking on.

The book contains several excellent illustrations showing clearly how they did this. Several fossilised pterosaur tracks revealing how they walked on all fours, have been discovered in various places. It used to be thought that pterosaurs would have been very clumsy when grounded, but we now know that this was not the case. Unlike pterosaurs, bats cannot walk on all fours simply because most of the fingers of their front feet are used up for supporting the wing membranes.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully illustrated. 16 Jun 2013
By zomboy
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A beautifully illustrated book, it manages to be both accessible and in-depth. Mark Witton really brings the subject to life. If you only buy one book about flying reptiles this month - get this one.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars QUICK REVIEW 22 Aug 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I hesitate to add my review of Witton's masterpiece since so many more expert people than I have given their opinions. However for the ordinary reader I must say that this is a wonderful book for shedding light on a difficult and somewhat remote subject.There are only two comparable books published in the last few years so this really is the only way to get uptodate with the subject. Anyone with the slightest interest in the dinosaur / pterosaur field should have this book on their shelf.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good looking and interesting. 31 Mar 2014
By Kowetas
This book is likely to entertain pterosaur enthusiasts whether they are knowledgeable on the subject or just beginning their reading on it. It goes into a reasonable amount of depth about various elements of pterosaurology and touches on the behavior, evolution and appearance of a wide variety of species, as well as looking at the different ways these have been interpreted over the course of history.

To add to this, the images and illustrations are done to a very high standard and really help to bring this vibrant prehistoric world to life.

Also the range of source texts that the author has used and references provides a huge library of reading for anyone who wants to go and look deeper into any of the aspects covered in the book.

I am thoroughly enjoying reading it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gift for dinosaur-enthusiast 20 Jan 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This has continued to grip my friend weeks after Christmas! A thoroughly researched engaging nd provocative read which updates the enthusiastic amateur paleantologist beautifully.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Pterosaurs are excellent
If like me you have long deplored the absence of great popular books on non-dinosaurian archosaurs, and were holding out for the day when a talented young British researcher would... Read more
Published 18 days ago by Christopher Stewart
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect for the inquisitive enthusiast
Written in a well informed and intelligent manner, but with more humour than these tomes usually have any right to expect, Pterosaurs is the perfect book for the curious reader who... Read more
Published 19 days ago by Mr. D. A. Heathcote
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good made
The illustrations are very good, book is well built. Bought it for the kid of a friend who is passionate about dinosaurs, kid was really excited about the book.
Published 1 month ago by EuroLIBRIS
5.0 out of 5 stars A really good read especially the last chapter on Quetzalcoatlus.
A really good read especially the last chapter on Quetzalcoatlus. The images and diagrams are of a very high quality and the text is clear and concise. Read more
Published 1 month ago by S. MOORE-FAY
5.0 out of 5 stars Accesible, yet detailed and in depth.
I bought this as a general interest book and was captivated about how fascinating it was.
All of the speculative reconstructions are explained and justified by the detailed... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mr. David Gallagher
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent natural history of an extinct group
This is a very well written and extremely thorough exposition of the current knowledge on pterosaur history. Read more
Published 5 months ago by S. Howers
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for those interested in pterosaurs
Like a superior cross between the books by Unwin (far more technical) and Salamander press (more up to date). One wonders why they ever died out.
Published 5 months ago by Gavin Derbyshire
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read!
This was a excellent read, for anyone who is even slightly interested i would recommend this. The author has a very good sense of humor, and the book is easy to read, nicely laid... Read more
Published 6 months ago by B
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good. Great illustrations.
Haven't had time to have a good read, but initial scans show it to be a good book. Great artwork.
Published 10 months ago by Roger James Ling
5.0 out of 5 stars My youngest son's hobby
Bought this for my youngest son as he is something of a resident expert on dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures in general. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Mike, Surrey
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