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When the Invasion of Land Failed: The Legacy of the Devonian Extinctions (The Critical Moments and Perspectives in Earth History and Paleobiology) Paperback – 8 Nov 2013

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Product details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (8 Nov. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231160577
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231160575
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15.5 x 1.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 229,660 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

McGhee is able to organize a vast literature into a coherent evolutionary story that is quite unique. From the origin of plants and animals through the Devonian era, this book is a marvelous read. It is important for a wide variety of geologists and biologists and for any readers interested in paleontology and environmental change. -- Peter Sheehan, curator, Milwaukee Public Museum Informative, lively... Highly recommended. CHOICE

About the Author

George R. McGhee Jr. is Distinguished Professor of Paleobiology at Rutgers University and a Member of the Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research in Klosterneuburg, Austria. He has held research positions at the University of T bingen, the Field Museum of Natural History, and the American Museum of Natural History.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By H. A. Weedon TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 19 Dec. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
George R McGhee, the author of this work, has a fluid, readily assimilated writing style that makes it a joy to read. The text is backed up with helpful line drawings plus a section of coloured illustrations. Before dealing with the Devonian extinctions the author takes us through a consideration of the origins of life on earth in fascinating fashion. Life on land in the Devonian period got started twice and then failed before a third attempt brought lasting success. It's a scintillating story every bit as exciting as a mystery thriller with all kinds of outlandish characters involved. If either of the two earlier attempts at land colonisation had succeeded, some animals might well have had more than five toes and five fingers. The way in which early plants established a beachhead on land is equally attention holding.

The work includes a preface, eight chapters, notes, references and index. The chapters are: 1: The Evolution of Life on Land. 2: The Plants Establish a Beachhead. 3: The First Animal Invasion. 4: The First Catastrophe and Retreat. 5: The Second Animal Invasion. 6: The Second Catastrophe and Retreat. 7: Victory at Last. 8: The Legacy of the Devonian Extinctions.

All told, we have here a top grade example of how to research, develop and compile a scientific work for general readership. There's never a boring moment as you get with quite a number of novels. Better still, the evidence for the existence of the prima face unbelievable is so well presented that it makes you want to jump around singing: 'I'm so pleased! I was so sure it must be like that! And now here's the evidence to show that it surely is. How exciting! What a read!' Yes folks, it really is as good as that.
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One for those who wish to delve beyond the perennial fascination with dinosaurs and go in search of a more 'primitive' flora and fauna. It is a masterful examination and distillation of decades of research into the Devonian period written by a professional, rather than a journalist, which can be heavy going at times; I got the impression that this was something written as an undergrad 'textbook'. Nothing wrong with that but the lay reader may find it a little too dry and academic to sustain interest, although the story it tells, how evolution always seems to 'find a way' to fill niches in any environment, is both remarkable and spell-binding. For those brought up on Bakker's infectious prose, this may seem a little dry, almost arid, but it tells a fascinating story about the colonisation of the land by, first the plants, then the 'insects', and finally, after severe setbacks, the tetrapods; the four-footed.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By S. Howers on 30 Jan. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book contains a thorough outline of a series of theories on the progress of animals and plants moving from a marine environment to a terrestrial one. It is written in a cheerful modern style without seeking to 'dumb down' any of the science and is therefore an enjoyable read. I suspect that a reader who did not have a reasonable amount of background knowledge of the geology and geography of ancient rocks would have some difficulty following the arguments in the text. I bought the Kindle edition and note that the Kindle reader does not cope well with the tables in the text.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Paco Martos on 26 Jan. 2014
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It gives a good introduction to the origins of life and animal evolution up to the Devonian. I would sincerely recommend it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5 reviews
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Thank you, George! 29 Oct. 2013
By Robert Eichen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
To me, the colonization of land is the most interesting of subjects. Mass extinction is great! And the Devonian Period, that "Age of Fishes", is the finest. Period. This book says it all. As a tetrapod I enjoyed reading this, my family history. We had our close calls but we made it. This volume is very readable and doesn't lose the reader with so many conflicting theories. Sea level up, sea level down. Vulcanism, anoxia, bolide impact, the soup is hot, the soup is cold. He presents his argument and when he's done, you are happy you read this book. Thanks George! How about a Carboniferous tetrapod follow up volume?
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Not a case of "IF, but "When and Whom." 20 July 2014
By Glen R. Bleak - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I rated it 4 stars in that it is very technical for laymen and I had some problems keeping track of the technical language and time periods in the Devonian. However, it is packed with some good facts and it appears when things go wrong they come in series or pulses during some of the extinctions of the Devonian. In my opinion, I think that the Fish Vertebrates would eventually became land dwellers, no matter how many had failed in the attempt, because a lot of fish species seemed to have most of the equipment for evolving into terrestrial animals. It appears that when a winning combination of characteristics evolves in a single species, it radiates into many species. I think this was the case in the some of the Devonian fishes. The land environment was right for habitation with the ozone layer, along with plants and insects already existing on land making ready made niches for the vertebrates to occupy. It's not a case of "IF", but When and Whom. The real question is, which one made onto land and became the ancestor of all existing and extinct Vertebrates? This maybe an unanswerable question, but, don't stop trying, science may find more interesting facts about our terrestrial ancestors in there research. My favorite candidate for the ancestor is Tiktaalik, but that is only my laymen opinion and besides I like Neil Shubin
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Life's trevails: appearances and extinctions in an impressive look at a crisis in the pas 26 May 2014
By Peter I - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Prof. McGhee has compiled an exhaustive array of data among all animal phyla (groups) to document the decline (and mass disappearances) of many organisms, along with the successful adaptations of some to produce survivors’ lineages. What was more significant for me was the author’s consideration of what environmental “catastrophes” would cause a mass extinction. The Late Devonian witnessed a serious climatic shift that produced extensive glaciation. This, in turn yielded global marine anoxia in stagnant, shallow seas that resulted from drastically lowered sealevels. Given the rise of land plants, large amounts of carbon sequestration in these seas yielded the petroleum bonanzas in the North Dakota, Oklahoma, Kentucky and South America (among many other locations). George McGhee is one of the few scientists with the skills to assemble the high volume of data into workable models in Earth history. The book is essential reading for those working on the puzzle of climate change.
18 of 25 people found the following review helpful
The author doesn't know who his readership is 27 Jan. 2014
By Alfred J. Padilla - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Looked like an interesting book, but within a few pages, it was a disappointment. It would appear that the author is trying to popularize information about the two greatest extinction events in natural history, one in which almost all life on land disappeared. There's a lot of new research data there, and that's interesting, but he tends to get bogged down in details only a paleophylogenist could love:
"Yet it can be seen in table 3.r that the zosterogrammids and cowiedesmids are more derived chilgonath millipedes...."
His favorite word, occurring at least once every few pages is "plesiomorphic."
In summary, too detailed for the casual, albeit educated and interested reader, and probably too "popularized" to serve as a review for those in the fields. I have only one doctorate, and it's not in paleontology, alas.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
It spends chapters explaining how life got to that point ... 9 Jun. 2015
By DONALD J GIFFORD - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It spends chapters explaining how life got to that point, then gets a bit technical with descriptions (and illustrations) of species.
The story of two failed attempts and final success is interesting.
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