The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a … (2024)

Emily May

2,064 reviews312k followers

December 24, 2018

I love dinosaurs.

I have an early memory of being at nursery school and always running straight for the plastic dinosaurs at playtime. I was a dinosaur hog. The Land Before Time was one of my favourite movies. I watched Jurassic Park and had a recurring nightmare about a T.Rex trying to attack our house.

They are so fascinating. Unbelievably huge reptiles that roamed the entire planet. Not only that, but it's so strange that we regard them as something of a failed species. Dinosaurs were around for 150 million years. The hom*o genus is only about 2.5 million years old, and hom*o sapiens have been around for a measly 300,000 years. Perhaps less. You think we have another 150 million years in us?

So, yeah, I love dinosaurs.

Problem is, I just couldn't stand Brusatte's writing. He obviously knows his stuff about dinosaurs, but I thought he made the potentially fascinating information very dry. And that's just when he's sticking to the subject. It gets far worse when he goes on long tangents about himself, name-dropping the people he's met and worked with. Unless it's a female paleontologist, in which case: who? You mean whatsisname's wife?

I usually like it when non-fiction writers put a little something of themselves into their writing. It adds some personality and pulls you along for the journey, such as in Skloot's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. But it helps if the writer isn't, um, annoying. Brusatte just comes across as a self-important nerd. There's too much about him, and it isn't enjoyable to read.

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    2018 nonfiction

Will Byrnes

1,327 reviews121k followers

April 21, 2022

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Image from the Smithsonian

Hope A Tyrannosaurus Rex is a thing with feathers.
----- Emily Dickinson Steve Brusatte
Wait, what? You’re kidding, right? Say it ain’t so. Well, there is some disagreement about this among paleontologists, but, according to Steve Brusatte, while they may not have matched up to Marc Bolan in a boa, and the feathers in question were maybe more like porcupine quills than the fluffy sort of plumage one might find on, say, an ostrich, those things poking out of the T. rex’s body were indeed feathers. And if you think the notion of a 40-foot, seven-ton eating machine, with ginormous, dagger-like, railroad-spike-size teeth bearing down on you, is scary, consider this. They travelled in packs. Sweet dreams! I have to confess that after reading this chapter, I did indeed have at least one dream that night that included multiple representatives of the T. Rex family. Not a wonderful image to induce one back to the land of Nod, after having bolted suddenly upright from REM sleep in fight-or-FLIGHT mode.

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Hello, lunch - Image from The Real T-Rex BBC special – this one from the Mirror

But I promise, not all the revelations in The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs will make you reach for some extra alcoholic or pharmaceutical sleep inducement. What we know about dinosaurs has continued to evolve, at an accelerating rate. Some revelations in the book are surprising and delightful, like the fact that new dinosaur species are being discovered at the rate of about one a week, and that this has been going on a while. There is a lot of catching up to be done since we mastered the basic few, Triceratops, T-Rex, Brontosaurus, Archaeopteryx, Stegasaurus, Dimetrodon, and the usual gang of idiots. Much bigger gang to keep track of these days. [I strongly urge you to check out Brusatte’s U of Edinburgh lecture, linked in EXTRA STUFF, for some very decisively feathered other members of the T. rex family. Fluffy indeed!]

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Steve Brusatte - looking for Triassic vertebrate footprints in a quarry in Poland – image from (Sorry, dear. I could have sworn I dropped the engagement ring right here!)

Dinosaurs had a pretty long reign as kings/queens of the hill, but they had to begin sometime. Once upon a time all the land was one, linked from north to south, called Pangea. Monster monsoons raked much of the Earth, blistering heat, deserts, jungles, except of course at the poles, which were relatively balmy. This time, from about 300 to about 250 million years ago (mya) is called The Permian Period. Then, boys and girls, the earth split a seam. All that hot material that is constantly coursing through the earth found a way out and spewed forth. Not a good time to be an earthling. It is referred to as The Permian Extinction. 90% of all life was wiped out, by lava flows, fire, global warming, airborne particles blocking the sun, and thus a dramatic, if temporary end to photosynthesis, which killed off most plant life. And the ensuing acidification of water did seriously unpleasant things to aqueous life. But, after things settled down again, which took a while, a new class of critters came to dominate, dinosaurs. Yay!

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From Pangea to now – image from

The Permian period was followed by the Triassic, from 250 to 200 mya, fifty million years of nature gone wild (I have that videotape in the attic, I think). Over the course of the Triassic, things on the land started to look like the world we know today. But the continents would have to drift for many millions of years yet before they would resemble our current landmass configuration. The first true dinos showed up around 230 to 240 mya. But they did not have the planet to themselves. There were reptiles, fish, birds, insects, even mammals, small ones, around at the time.

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Metoposaurus, Kermit’s g-g-g-g-g-g-g-g-grandma, was an amphibian the size of a Buick, with a coffee-table-sized head, and, unlike those little critters you had to work with in bio lab, these pups had hundreds of very sharp teeth. It hung out by water’s edge to capture anything straying too close. Mostly fish, but watch your ankles.

There is interesting material in here about what came before the dinosaurs, (dinosauromorphs, yes, really) and where the line is drawn (arbitrarily) between dino and pre-dino. You, here, you, over there. Like Middle East borders.

Brusatte walks us through the timeline of the dinos, from conditions being established at the end of the Permian, their arrival in the Triassic, to their sudden farewell at the end of the Cretaceous. Permian, Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous. Go ahead, repeat that a few times. It’s the sequence of periods Brusatte covers here. The first three come in at around 50 million years each, with the Cretaceous hanging on for about 80. The last three, taken together, comprise what is known as the Mesozoic Era, aka The Age of the Dinosaurs. (Which makes no sense to me. Shouldn’t it be The Era of the Dinosaurs? Or the Mesozoic Age? It’s so confusing.) He shows what changed geologically, and how the changes allowed this or that lifeform to arise. (often by wiping out the competition). He also takes us along with him to dig sites around the planet, Scotland, Portugal, Poland, The American Southwest, South America, China, and more, and introduces us to some of the foremost scientists in the field.

The characters in Brusatte’s tale are not all of the ancient sort. He populates each chapter with modern specimens notable for their diversity and sometimes colorful plumage. While they may all be brilliant scientists, many could easily be classified as Anates Impar. It would not be a huge stretch to imagine them populating a nerdish Cantina scene. Here are Brusatte’s description of three of them. There are many more.

You can spot Thomas Carr, now a professor at Wisconsin’s Carthage College, from a mile away. He has the fashion sense of a 1970s preacher and some of the mannerisms of Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory. Thomas always wears black velvet suits, usually with a black or dark red shirt underneath. He has long bushy sideburns and a mop of light hair. A silver skull ring adorns his hand. He’s easily consumed by things and has a long-running obsession with absinthe and the Doors. That and tyrannosaurs.

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Thomas Carr - image from his Twitter page

Baron Franz Nopcsa von Felso-Szilvas…was literally an aristocrat who dug up dinosaur bones. He seems like the invention of a mad novelist, a character so outlandish, so ridiculous, that he must be a trick of fiction. But he was very real—a flamboyant dandy and a tragic genius, whose exploits hunting dinosaurs in Transylvania were brief respites from the insanity of the rest of his life…[he had] expertise in espionage, linguistics, cultural anthropology, paleontology, motorbiking, [geology, and god knows what else].

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The Baron - image from

Jingmai [O’Connor] calls herself a Paleontologista—fitting given her fashionista style of leopard-print Lycra, piercings, and tattoos, all of which are at home in the club but stand out (in a good way) among the plaid-and-beard crowd that dominates academia…she’s also the world’s number-one expert on those first birds that broke the bounds of Earth to fly above their dinosaur ancestors.

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Jingmai O’Connor - image from her Twitter page

Brusatte also shamelessly namedrops every A-list paleontologist he has encountered. Of course, it sounds like those encounters were substantial, so I guess it’s ok, but… I was reminded a bit of Bill Clinton’s memoir, in which it seemed that every person he mentioned had either changed his life or was a close personal friend. In a way, the book constitutes a this-is-your-life look at Brusatte’s paleontology career (boy meets bone?), with appearances by many of the people he had learned from or worked with. (they are legion) In addition to the studies mentioned in the book, he is the author of a widely taught textbook, Dinosaur Paleobiology. He is the paleo expert in residence on Walking with Dinosaurs (so much better than the sequel, Fleeing from Dinosaurs) on the BBC.

One of the things that has allowed modern paleontologists to make and continue to make ground-breaking discoveries about Earth’s former tenants is the major advance in technology at their disposal. It’s a lot easier, for example, to see inside a fossilized skull to measure the size and shape of internal cavities with the help of a CT scanner than it was before they were available.

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A new dinosaur, feathered, winged Zhenyuanlong from China - image from The Conversation

You will learn some fascinating new information about dinos, some of it startling. This includes how sauropods managed those looooooong necks, why wild diversification happened when it did, why it took dinosaurs as long as it did to get large and take over. There is a fascinating bit on how some dinosaurs can pack an extra punch by getting air while they breathe in and out, surprising intel on how some of the critters you thought were dinosaurs aren’t, and directions on where you can look to see actual living dinosaurs today. He punctures some of the notions from the Jurassic Park movies. If trapped by a T-Rex, for instance, do not remain motionless. Rex has binocular vision and can see you perfectly well, whether you are sitting down in a port-o-san or hiding in or under a vehicle. Wave buh-bye.

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If you do not know what this is from you need to get out more

Speaking of un-fond farewells, Brusatte take us up to and through the biggest bang of them all, on Earth anyway, 66 mya. His description of the horror that marked the end of the dinosaurs is graphic, and disturbing.

It was the worst day in the history of our planet. A few hours of unimaginable violence that undid more than 150 million years of evolution and set life on a new course. T. rex was there to see it.
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Look, up in the sky. It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s…Oh, sh*t
Artwork by Donald E. Davis

Brusatte has written an eminently readable pop-science history of the dinosaurs, with accessible info on geology, biology, and the work of paleontologists, who are laboring tirelessly (and maybe obsessively) to find out the answers to questions that are as old as humanity’s awareness of the erstwhile inhabitants of our planet. This is one of those books that should be in every household. You do not need to be a scientist to get a lot out of it. The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs, bubbling with the enthusiasm of its author, will be an enjoyable and enlightening read for hom*o sapiens of all ages from pre-teen through fossil. Learning more about Earth’s illustrious, impressive, sometimes terrifying, and sometimes adorable former tenants never gets old. Really, who doesn’t love dinosaurs?

Review posted – April 13, 2018

Publication date – April 24, 2018

December 2018 - Dinosaurs may no longer rule the earth, but The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs rules the 2018 Goodreads Choice Award for Science. Reached for comment, a spokesman for Mr. Brusatte offered the following response.

=============================EXTRA STUFF

Links to the author’s personal and Twitter pages

Episode 37 of Palaeocast features Steve talking about Therapods and Birds - December 1, 2014 – 44:00

A presentation by Brusatte, who is a wonderful speaker, on Tyrannosaur Discoveries, at the U of Edinburgh – Watch this, really. Great stuff.

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In the above, Brusatte talks about feathered dinos, among other things. Meet Yutyrannus huali, (artist’s interpretation) a feathered tyrannosaur from China (but you can call him Fluffy) – image from The Conversation

A fun article from the BBC - Legendary dinosaurs that we all imagine completely wrong - By Josh Gabbatiss - 3/21/16

NY Times – April 4, 2018 - Brusatte is keeping busy, publishing, with his team, a new study about the presence of dinos in Scotland, specifically in the Isle of Skye. In Footprints on Scotland’s Isle of Skye, Signs of a Dinosaur Playground - by Nicholas St. Fleur

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This image of a sauropod print accompanied the above article – from the University of Edinburgh

An interesting lecture (33 minutes) on how paleontologists research dinosaurian social behavior and what they have found - Social Behaviour in Dinosaurs - with David Hone Hone's delivery has a sing-song rhythm that can be a bit soporific, but the content is fascinating. Of particular interest is the basis for juvenile clustering.

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This cluster of dinosaur egg fossils, on display at the Tianyu Museum, dates back 70 million years to the late Cretaceous era - shot by Stefen Chow - text and image from above article
It reminds me of that scene in the first Alien film when they discover the nesting site

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==========In the summer of 2019 GR reduced the allowable review size by 25%, from 20,000 to 15,000 characters. In order to accommodate the text beyond that I moved it to the comments section directly below.

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But then in 2021, GR opted to ban the use of external links in Comments.

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So I had to chop off bits here, which hurts. However, you can see the entire review, including the links deleted here, and the links in Comment #2 below, on my site Coot’s Reviews. Stop by and say Hi!

    books_of_the_year-2018 brain-candy nature


687 reviews654 followers

March 31, 2019

Another ambivalent three stars for a book that has two strands of highly varying success in my opinion.

The good part of the book is the clear and vivid writing about dinosaurs. I particularly liked learning new things about dinosaur-like creatures that lived among them but happen to fall outside the classification, and reasons why dinosaurs could evolve to be absolutely gigantic (those big sauropods) or fly. I liked reading about the nomenclature of new and unusual finds (it's not all Latin anymore). The section on the immediate aftermath of the asteroid strike is gripping and horrifying. ("But what fell from the sky was not water. It was beads of glass and chunks of rock, each one scalding hot.")

The bad part is the writing about the author's personal experiences as he grew from an annoying, precocious teen (which he freely admits he was) into a working paleontologist. Frankly he comes off as more than a little self-satisfied--a sighting of the Jerkus brillianticus, if you will. His mentors and collaborators are uniformly amazing and brilliant and are described in a way that makes nearly all of them sound dull and interchangeable, an endless parade of brilliant bearded dudes drinking beer in exotic locales that are mainly described in terms of their nattering locals and unpleasant weather. (If you think I've used the word "brilliant" a lot in this paragraph, you won't believe this book!) Though he names several women paleontologists in these pages, he rarely seems to work with any of them, and notes with apparent enjoyment crass jokes at bars and commentary about their physiques from a speaker at an international conference. The personal recollections strike a disagreeable note that undercuts one of the goals of the book, which is to show how cool it would be to be a paleontologist.

Bottom line: Read this, while holding your nose a little bit, if you're interested in dinosaurs.

Review copy received from Edelweiss.

Edited to add: I am going to close the comments on this, since no one seems capable of talking about dinosaurs, but the question of examples from the book was a fair one. This review was very hard to write since the review copies specifically ask you only to quote from the finished book, which did not exist yet, so I was avoiding direct quotes. However, I have patiently waited for a library copy and spot checked a few passages that I could find by searching my Kindle copy for specific terms.

Two of the most objectionable parts that I would have quoted have been changed. In the midst of a favorable description of a hedonistic conference in Argentina (steak, drinking, dancing, etc.), the review copy mentions "an outrageous quip about the physical qualities of the foreign women in attendance." On page 42 of the finished book, the text now reads "an outrageous quip about some of the foreigners in attendance"--which makes the edit fairly obvious because the resulting sentence doesn't make a lot of sense. On page 346 of the final book, what had originally said "crass inside jokes" was edited to "inside jokes." (I hope the publisher will forgive the forbidden quoting here.)

I'm guessing the editor jumped in here, and kudos to them for doing so, but it doesn't change my overall feeling about the book. Three stars is not one star, folks! The book had some good parts (the information about the dinosaurs) and some bad parts (where the author talks about himself). This is hardly scintillating memoir from someone who thinks that "he never lets his students pay for beer" (finished book pg. 289) makes someone a really cool and interesting person. If you think so too, you can read this book without even holding your nose as I originally suggested. If you don't, you can still read it.

    2018 review-copy science


857 reviews14.2k followers

July 4, 2022

Dinosaurs are awesome. That’s a fact.

Mind-boggling colossal creatures that ruled the prehistoric planet for so much longer than our own meager blip on the planetary timescale. The creatures who probably still would be thriving if not for that unfortunately aimed giant space rock 65-ish million years ago. They are majestic, fascinating, and we are finally coming closer to understanding and appreciating their nature as the magnificent creatures they were.

“Hadrosaurs and ceratopsians eating flowers. Smaller ornithischians feeding on shrubs, the pachycephalosaurs head-butting each other in tests of dominance. Poodle-size raptors prowling for salamanders, lizards, even some of our early mammal relatives, all of which are known from Hell Creek fossils. A variety of omnivores—Troodon and the freakish oviraptorosaurs—picking up whatever scraps the more specialized meat-eaters and plant-eaters forgot about. Other dinosaurs I haven’t yet mentioned, like the speed-demon ornithomimosaurs, and the heavily armored Ankylosaurus, fighting for their own niches. Pterosaurs and primitive birds soaring overhead; crocodiles lurking offshore in the rivers and the lakes. Not a sauropod to be found, and the King—the great T. rex itself—ruling over all of it.

This was the Late Cretaceous of North America, the final flourish of the dinosaurs before disaster struck.”

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Steve Brusatte is unabashedly, wonderfully, nerdily enthusiastic about his passion for dinosaurs, and I love it. He tells us about the nuts and bolts of paleontology, introduces us to his friends and colleagues in the dinosaur hunting business, and excitedly goes into detail about dinosaur evolution, reign and the sudden dramatic end (well, for all of them that are not chirping around, being birds), as well as the events that shaped their emergence and eventual dominance, the continental drifts and mass extinctions - the ones that helped them thrive and the one that suddenly ended them. The titanic sizes, the diets, the fights, the colors, even the feathers — he covers it all, and in a way that makes sense and is fun, and never overwhelms.
“But there was more to it than that, because continents don’t just split up and call it a day. As with human relationships, things can get really nasty when a continent breaks up. And the dinosaurs and other animals growing up on Pangea were about to be changed forever by the aftereffects of their home being ripped in two.”

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“After some of the largest volcanic eruptions in Earth history desecrated ecosystems, dinosaurs became more diverse, more abundant, and larger. Completely new dinosaur species were evolving and spreading into new environments, while other groups of animals went extinct. As the world was going to hell, dinosaurs were thriving, somehow taking advantage of the chaos around them.”

And throughout the detailed narration Brusatte keeps his at times slightly awkward yet endearing humor, keeping it light-hearted and engaging.

He is really good at making the reader see that dinosaurs were not just the mythical, legendary and almost alien creatures but living and breathing animals that made sense in the world - our world, but just a bit different. It’s pop science — but of nevertheless informative, non-dumbed-down kind, and he keeps it interesting throughout.

“Triceratops, like its arch-nemesis T. rex, is a dinosaur icon. In films and documentaries, it usually plays the gentle, sympathetic plant-eater, the perfect dramatic foil to the Tyrant King. Sherlock versus Moriarty, Batman versus the Joker, Trike versus Rex. But it’s not all movie magic; no, these two dinosaurs truly would have been rivals 66 million years ago. They lived together along the lakes and rivers of the Hell Creek world, and they were the two most common species there—Triceratops making up some 40 percent of Hell Creek dinosaur fossils, T. rex coming in second at about 25 percent. The King needed immense amounts of flesh to fuel its metabolism; its three-horned comrade was fourteen tons of slow-moving prime steak. You can figure out what happened next.”

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Oh yeah, by the way, if you find T. rex terrifying — “[…] tyrannosaurs that were over thirty-five feet long and one and a half tons in weight, with the big deep skulls, muscular jaws, banana-size teeth, pathetic arms, and bulky leg muscles that define T. rex” — you may just lose some sleep after the conclusion that these predators hunted in packs.

Feathered or not, what is scarier than an angry T. rex chasing you headfirst (“T. rex simply had to hunt headfirst, because its arms were pitifully tiny”)? Well, an entire pack of them. Think about that while your sphincter clenches.

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And if you are sad that the crazy but awesome world of dinosaurs is no more because of that stupid giant cosmic rock that eventually made us relevant enough to write about dinosaurs, then don’t despair. Listen close — you may hear a few dinos chirping outside as you’re eating what basically amounts to a T. rex omelet.
“This means that dinosaurs are still among us today. We’re so used to saying that dinosaurs are extinct, but in reality, over ten thousand species of dinosaurs remain, as integral parts of modern ecosystems, sometimes as our food and our pets, and in the case of seagulls, sometimes as pests.”
“A T. rex didn’t just mutate into a chicken one day, but rather, the transition was so gradual that dinosaurs and birds just seem blend into each other on the family tree.”

I really liked this book, even the extended discussions of every exciting paleontologist Brusatte has met and befriended. I loved his voice, his humor and his unbridled enthusiasm. I’m a fan. Sign me up for whatever he writes.

4.5 stars, rounding up.

My review of Brusatte’s newest book, The Rise and Reign of the Mammals: A New History, from the Shadow of the Dinosaurs to Us, is here:

Buddy read with Dennis (his review).

Also posted on my blog.

Recommended by: Dennis

    2022-reads nonfiction


973 reviews29.2k followers

November 27, 2021

“With each new discovery we make, each new study, we learn a little more about dinosaurs and their evolutionary story. That is the tale I am going to tell in this book – the epic account of where dinosaurs came from, how they rose to dominance, how some of them became colossal and others developed feathers and wings and turned into birds, and then how the rest of them disappeared, ultimately paving the way for the modern world, and for us. In doing so, I want to convey how we’ve pieced together this story using fossil clues that we have, and give some sense of what it’s like to be a paleontologist whose job it is to hunt for dinosaurs. Most of all, though, I want to show that dinosaurs were not aliens, nor were they failures, and they’re certainly not irrelevant. They were remarkably successful, thriving for over 150 million years and producing some of the most amazing animals that have ever lived…”
-Stephen L. Brusatte, The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World

I’m not much of what you’d call a “dinosaur guy.” When I was a kid – the age that most dino-lovers discover their true feelings – I was too busy with the American Civil War to pretend to care. In 1993, when Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park (based on Michael Crichton’s novel) exploded into theaters, my parents almost had to drag me to see it. I liked it – it was essentially Jaws with claws and a bigger budget – but it did not fulfill any childhood fantasy of seeing long-extinct creatures brought to mesmerizing life. Nothing in the intervening years has changed that. I now have four kids and none of them has ever asked me a dinosaur-related question, despite having asked just about every other question you can imagine.

Recently, however, I have started to make more of an effort to expand my intellectual pursuits beyond those subjects that have obsessed me for years. It was in this spirit that I saw Stephen L. Brusatte’s The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs on the shelf at a local bookstore. The novelty of seeing a dinosaur book aimed squarely at adults certainly got my attention, and before I knew it, my credit card was in my hand.

Soon after, I was ready to impulsively leap back in time to where the Battle of Gettysburg was not even the shadow of a glimmer in some stegosaurus’s eye.


There is an inherent difficulty in crafting a nonfiction narrative about dinosaurs. That difficulty stems from the fact that they lived and died so long ago it boggles the imagination. Brusatte nimbly overcomes this obstacle by employing two storylines simultaneously.

The first covers the physical history of dinosaurs as they evolved from sacks of jelly to grow into a wide variety of fascinating creatures, some of them epically-sized behemoths. In these portions of the book, Brusatte discusses how dinosaurs grew, how they migrated across the globe, how they came to dominate, and how they died. My favorite parts of The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs occurred when Brusatte takes you back to those strange days at the basem*nt of time. He does a marvelous job at explaining what the dinosaurs might have seen out of their own eyes, and includes an imaginative set piece describing a deadly game of prehistoric predator-prey. Also noteworthy is an excellent chapter in which Brusatte explains why be believes that birds are dinosaurs, an argument that encompasses cogent explanations of evolution, natural selection, and the initial functionality of wings, and the final chapter, which is a brutal evocation of the asteroid/comet that ended the reign.

It’s not just the wildlife, but the landscape itself that captivates. Brusatte discusses the world of Pangea, the consequences of that supercontinent’s rupture, and pays close attention to the effects of a changing climate on species in general, and dinosaurs in particular. Even though I have never spent more than five seconds thinking about these topics – and am still liable to confuse periods, eras, and epochs – Brusatte did an admirable job of keeping me from getting hopelessly lost.

The second storyline is a history of the study of dinosaurs. These sections, intermingled with the first, delve into the questions of how we know what we know, and who helped us to know what we know. Though not as inherently entertaining, I found these segments equally valuable, especially with regard to the scientific method employed by paleontologists studying the fossil record. Brusatte answers fundamental questions about how we can glean so much information from ossified bones. He also highlights the occasionally vivid personalities of dinosaur hunters themselves. Of special note is Baron Nopcsa, a Romanian-born aristocrat who sought fossils in Transylvania when he wasn’t trying to become King of Albania. In short, this is good science writing, and engenders an appreciation for the discipline as a whole.


Brusatte is a well-regarded paleontologist, and he often inserts himself into the proceedings, to tell us his own insights and discoveries. For the most part, I had no problem with this. He is, after all, an authority, and an engaging one at that. At certain points, however, his passion became less infectious and more eye-rolling. He works hard to style himself as an Indiana Jones-type, incessantly stressing his youth, his rugged working conditions, and his globe-trotting. Brusatte also tends to be an inveterate name dropper of names you’ve never heard. While it’s cool that he’s giving credit to his colleagues, he tends to describe them in such an excessive fashion (everyone is “the best” at whatever niche they occupy) that it feels like he’s identifying members of the A-Team.

Relatedly, Brusatte gets a little self-indulgent with the memoir aspects. This includes a rather needless description of a “legendary” dinosaur conference after-party. While I can appreciate a three a.m. taco bar as much as the next fellow, this little vignette still left me with more questions than answers.


For as much as Brusatte’s voice sometimes wore me out, I liked that he kept a common touch, and didn’t try to pretend that he was someone other than a person who got paid to travel around and look at old bones. When I opened this, I halfway expected Brusatte to try to convince me that Tyrannosaurs rex wasn’t the coolest of all dinosaurs. Not to worry. T-Rex gets his own laudatory – and enlightening – chapter. Another popularizing touch is Brusatte’s use of Jurassic Park as a point of comparison. It’s a bit odd to critique the accuracy of a movie in which Jeff Goldblum is a “chaotician” and long-extinct dinosaurs are brought back to life, but it’s a fun touch.


There has likely been a moment in your life when you’ve heard a person compared to a “dinosaur.” This, of course, is not a compliment. Rather, the term is used to describe someone who’s old and out-of-touch and on the superhighway towards irrelevance.

It occurred to me, as I was finishing The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs, that there are some interesting assumptions baked into that particular usage. Chiefly, there is the idea that dinosaurs somehow failed, while we humans have succeeded. This is not really an accurate summation.

The heights to which dinosaurs rose were dizzying, which made their destruction all the more precipitous. They had been at the apex for millions of years, and then they were gone. Just like that. There is a lesson for humanity in this breathtaking turn of fortune, a lesson in humility. We think that we have achieved dominion over the world and mastery over nature. We think our place at the mountaintop is secure. We think – as a species – that we’ll be around forever. Likely, the dinosaurs thought that too.

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs is the literary equivalent of looking up at the night sky and seeing the full panoply of stars in the heavens. Such an experience – like thinking about the Age of Dinosaurs – makes you realize how infinitesimal you are in comparison to the vastness of time and space. This can either be an occasion of existential dread or – as this book implies – a moment of profound awe.

    ancient-history science


308 reviews99 followers

July 4, 2018

I loved the parts about dinosaurs. Fun facts, history, evidence and speculation on behavior, recent discoveries, distribution as the continents divided and spread out. It's a compact assessable update on dinosaurs large and small. Oh, just another coelophysis, no this is something new!

I tuned out the sections of the author's personal experience. I wasn't interested. Based on other GR reviews, that's probably for the best.


2,714 reviews35.8k followers

July 28, 2019

Now that I am an expert on dinosaurs......

lol, not even close to being an expert but I did learn a lot from this book. For instance, new species of dinosaurs are still being discovered, they weren't always big, and about the big "bang/meteor" which ended their reign on earth.

My interest in dinosaurs occurred the same way that most people's interest was piqued. Through museum visits and television. Land of the Lost anyone? My sister and I loved watching it on Saturday mornings - we were especially excited when the T-Rex made its appearance. Then there was Jurassic Park which knocked it out of the ballpark with the sound effects and frightening scenes of dinosaurs being well…dinosaurs...because, as Jeff Goldblum so eloquently put it "life finds a way."

Life did find a way for millions of years. Brusatte writes about them in this book. He begins at the beginning literally and gives a glimpse into what their last moments might have been like. He details changes, both environmental, geographical and physiological. These prehistoric ancestors to some of our modern-day animals have intrigued man since fossils have been discovered. Many questions have been answered, while others are still out there. Theories on their demise have been around since their fossils have been discovered.

This isn't just a book about dinosaurs, it is also a book about Brusatte's career, his friends, the excavations he was on, and other scientists/paleontologists he knows. Most of this I didn't mind. I love when people are excited about what they do. I interpreted most of it as him showing how he learned and who he worked with in the field. Did I need to know who went drinking with who after a fossil discovery, not really, but I didn't mind it. It was a day and a night in the life of a paleontologist. I recall how excited I was as child finding a fossil of a shell in a rock. I can only imagine how exciting it must be to actually find a dinosaur fossil - let alone a brand new one.

This is a pretty meaty book as it holds a lot of information. He knows his stuff and and showcases his chapters with pictures and drawings. This is not a book someone can speed read through. But it was enlightening and entertaining at the same time. This book is full of facts but with the facts does come some conjecture. The Author is full of knowledge and shares it in a very readable manner. I found this book to be interesting and learned a lot, more than I ever did in school.


Robin Bonne

651 reviews151 followers

December 6, 2023

5/5 for the informational sections about dinosaurs. 1/5 for the autobiographical sections about the author’s academic/research career in which he comes off as a sexist narcissist. Gross.

Overall, read the sections about the dinosaurs and skip the parts about his personal experiences. I listened to the audiobook so I couldn’t skim the awful, masturbatory memoir stuff, which I found unfortunate. Every time he mentions a male scientist, he turns it into a self-congratulating name drop. When he mentions a female scientist, he has something snarky and mean to say about her. I wish the author had focused on the dinosaurs because that was the most interesting part and what I picked the book up to learn.

Edit 2023: it’s been five years and anonymous accounts are still leaving rude comments every few weeks. STOP. I am not removing my review.

    memoir-and-essay nonfiction

⋆.ೃ࿔*:・☾;❀*ੈMiriaM✩‧₊˚˚ ༘ ೀ⋆ ⋆。˚

876 reviews458 followers

May 12, 2019

If, like me, you were a kid during the Jurassic Park era, you know that the new generations have an interest in dinosaurs which is ten hundred times less than we had in the 1990s. At the time, dinosaurs were everywhere: on TV, on our first computers, in video games, even in cereal boxes. Sometimes I can't help but being flabbergasted by the notion that today's kindergartners don't know what a dyplodocus is, or exactly how tall and heavy a brontosaurus was.

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a … (34)

Of course, my notions about dinosaurs also stopped growing after a couple of years, with the result that the last time I updated them, little Tim was still complaining about how crazy the theory that some of them may have learned how to fly was.

Brusatte literally tells us that seagulls are dinosaurs, which is cool I mean, I was so sad when they all died in that tragic accident with the meteor and mass destruction and stuff. But that is not the only reason why I am glad I read this book. Not all scientists are writers, and even less are good writers. Just because your mind literally overflows with knowledge, doesn't mean that you are also good at sharing it with others. This book, in my opinion, shows that Brusatte is not only good at his job, but also at making other people interested in what he has to say: last time a book about dinosaurs became so famous, there were only two Jurassic park movies.

This book is not as much the history of dinosaurs as it is the story of how that history has been discovered: inside it, paleontologists are nothing less than detectives who use everything in their power to reconstruct events that happened hundreds of millions of years ago.

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a … (35)

I enjoyed being engrossed in this book, but two things always prevent me from liking any "pop science" book at a five star level, and I found them in this one as well.

First is the idealization of the character of the scientist: in these books, professors are nothing less than real life Indiana Jones, with brains as big as a star ship and looks like Captain America. Their personalities are always charming and they have more fan girls than a rockstar.

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a … (36)

I understand that part of the reason for doing so is to keep the public interested, but part of it is genuine fanboying and blind adoration from the writer. Unfortunately, having studied and then worked in a University for almost ten years and having been in close contact with some of these superstar professors, I found out that these people are, for the majority, very different from how the public perceives them. Their flamboyant style and eccentric personality are often the result of a self-absorbed, narcissistic and sometimes borderline sociopathic personality. You can spend a couple of interesting dinners with them and being completely fascinated by their discoveries, you can listen to their speeches for hours, but don't try to marry one of them... not that I have a personal experience with that of course 😂 (jk, I totally do).

The second issue is that many of these scientific writers tend to present their discoveries, and in general the state of the art in a specific field as it is today, as the ultimate science Truth that finally answered all the questions we had in the past surrounding a specific topic. In reality, within ten years we will probably read a new book on these topics that will completely change everything that is said here, and that will also be presented as Truth. Let's never forget that every scientific theory, as revolutionary and clear as it can be, is exactly what it is: a theory, and every knowledge is temporary.

This book was one of the best, most interesting pieces of non-fiction I read this year. I recommend it to anyone who has or had interests in this topic, and also to anyone who wants to get started on dinosaurs! But remember guys:

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a … (37)


Jenna ❤ ❀ ❤

869 reviews1,537 followers

December 27, 2018

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a … (39)

Unlike many people, I've never been fascinated by dinosaurs. I don't recall learning about them as a child, though perhaps I did and my interest wasn't piqued enough to remember. I think my only exposure to them was via the cartoon The Flintstones. I didn't get much of a science education as a child but as an adult, science (all areas that I've learned about) is one of my favourite subjects and my favourite type of book to read. So it's a bit odd that I didn't feel compelled to read or learn about dinosaurs -- until now.

Prior to its publication whilst preparing a book order for my library and reading about it, I knew it was one I would want to read. When it arrived and I saw its cover, I was entranced and almost bumped it ahead in my TBR list. It's better to prolong the anticipation of something good though, so I waited until it came up next in my TBR list, to read it. Wow oh wow! I can see why this won the Goodreads Choice Award 2018 for Science!

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World is an utterly fascinating and absorbing read! Stephen Brusatte is a paleontologist who specializes in the evolution of dinosaurs. In this book, he brings his vast knowledge of all things dinosaur to us. With the latest research at his fingertips, he discusses how and why dinosaurs came to rule the Earth. He details the evolution and anatomy of many of the species (in my prior ignorance, I assumed there were only around 25 or so species, most notably T. Rex and Brontosaurus. I was amazed to learn that we know of over 700 different species of dinosaurs! Incredible!!) I had no clue that most dinosaurs probably had feathers, or that they came in a rainbow of colours, sometimes iridescent, and we can tell from fossils what those colours were -- even though the fossils themselves lack pigment.

We learn that wings probably first evolved as a display feature to attract mates and frighten enemies, and only gradually and accidentally evolved into something that would enable flight. We learn that a teenage T. Rex would have gained on average 5 pounds a day in order to reach its vast size. I hope they weren't as weight conscious as humans teens!

Mr. Brussatte doesn't just tell us about dinosaurs, but also about the world they thrived in, so very different from the earth humans have always called home. There is so much information on Pangea, its climate and eventual breaking apart that I found extremely interesting. He paints such a vivid picture of the world the dinosaurs inhabited. He tells the story of what the dinosaurs would have experienced in the moments after the asteroid or comet struck 65 million year ago, ending the Cretaceous period.... and the reign of the dinosaurs. He tells us why and how these great and diverse creatures went extinct except for birds, and why some mammals survived when the dinosaurs could not. He tells us the story of how a scientist named Walter Alvarez figured out that an asteroid or comet had struck the earth and was responsible for the dinosaurs' extinction. It was all so very captivating!

These topics and so many others are discussed in this book and I think it will be of interest to many people. It's written for the lay person and one (obviously) does not need to have prior knowledge of dinosaurs in order to understand and enjoy this book. I went from no interest in and little knowledge of these creatures to now wanting to become an amateur fossil hunter! Kudos to Stephen Brusatte for writing such a brilliant book!

    animals science-matters


660 reviews303 followers

June 19, 2022

I had a conversation about dinosaurs this morning. Well, in fact, I had three. One of them started with this awesome meme that my equally awesome friend Renée shared yesterday:

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a … (41)

"So intelligence doesn't guarantee survival."

"Well, judging by its short arms, it seems to be a Thesaurus Rex. They are basically turkeys now, right? So one could say they survived. In a way. At least their cousins did. The real Thesaurus Rex didn't get anywhere with its highbrow palaver either."

"Well, they all didn't believe the scientists when they warned about bad weather incl. asteroid showers - all fake news - and now they are at best ladies handbags or Thanksgiving dishes."

"That should be a warning to us."

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a … (42)

Yes, dinosaurs were once ruling this planet. They were living, breathing animals, not some fantasy creatures. Sometimes simple facts can be quite amazing when you think about it.

Hadrosaurs and ceratopsians eating flowers. Smaller ornithischians feeding on shrubs, the pachycephalosaurs head-butting each other in tests of dominance. Poodle-size raptors prowling for salamanders, lizards, even some of our early mammal relatives, all of which are known from Hell Creek fossils. A variety of omnivores—Troodon and the freakish oviraptorosaurs—picking up whatever scraps the more specialized meat-eaters and plant-eaters forgot about. Other dinosaurs I haven’t yet mentioned, like the speed-demon ornithomimosaurs, and the heavily armored Ankylosaurus, fighting for their own niches. Pterosaurs and primitive birds soaring overhead; crocodiles lurking offshore in the rivers and the lakes. Not a sauropod to be found, and the King—the great T. rex itself—ruling over all of it.

This was the Late Cretaceous of North America, the final flourish of the dinosaurs before disaster struck.

With infectious enthusiasm Stephen Brusatte tells the story from their humble beginnings to their rise to dominance and their ultimate downfall - almost fully extinguished by a cosmic catastrophe. Almost. Again, simple facts can be amazing.


When you compare our time on Earth to that of dinosaurs we are really just a blip on the geological radar. So, what Brusatte is also telling is the story of how the Earth itself changed.

But there was more to it than that, because continents don’t just split up and call it a day. As with human relationships, things can get really nasty when a continent breaks up. And the dinosaurs and other animals growing up on Pangea were about to be changed forever by the aftereffects of their home being ripped in two.

After some of the largest volcanic eruptions in Earth history desecrated ecosystems, dinosaurs became more diverse, more abundant, and larger. Completely new dinosaur species were evolving and spreading into new environments, while other groups of animals went extinct. As the world was going to hell, dinosaurs were thriving, somehow taking advantage of the chaos around them.

It's an all-around fascinating story told in an enthusiastic, sometimes funny, always easily understandable voice. It's a great pop science book. Only that I couldn't muster up the same enthusiasm for Brusatte's paleontologist buddies. He's just as excited about his work and that of other people in the field as he is about dinosaurs themselves. That's great for him. But I was really only here for this:

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a … (43)

Neither his nor the book's fault of course. But I can't quite give it five stars if there are several longish passages during which I was just waiting for him to get back to the Jurassic or the Cretaceous. I would have taken a couple more pictures too. Other than that, fantastic.

Buddy read with Nataliya.

    animals-nature-environment history science


4,067 reviews12.9k followers

July 3, 2019

Steve Brusatte takes the reader deep inside his extensive research as a palaeontologist to explore the world during the time of the dinosaurs. Offering thrilling facts and great anecdotes, this is one piece sure to be talked about for years. Choosing to discuss a topic that has likely enthralled most readers at some time or another, Brusatte seeks to help the reader better understand the world at the time of dinosaurs, including how Earth changed to facilitate dinosaur emergence, the various ecological and atmospheric happenings that helped support their existence, and some of the accepted theories about their extinction. Tackling hundreds of millions of years in this piece, Brusatte makes the journey highly informative and light-hearted, providing the reader with numerous facts about the time, as well as stories from past palaeontologists who discovered many interesting facts, based on fossils. Looking to explain some of the groupings of dinosaurs, Brusatte offers up some interesting tidbits about their connection and how they evolved over time, contrasting them with others—how and why the T-Rex differed from the brontosaurus, for example—and providing a better understanding of how they lived. With detailed discussions and an entire chapter dedicated to the most famous of all dinosaurs, Brusatte also seeks to dispel some of the myths that books and films have sought to use to their advantage. He also takes the latter part of the book to engage the reader in the evolving debate over dinosaurs as being predecessors to birds or simply distant relatives, and ends with a thrilling discussion of dinosaur extinction. The world of dinosaurs comes alive, making the journey one of constant learning and fact-based discussion, superimposed with some of his own personal experiences on the hunt for new discoveries. Those with an interest in the subject will likely find this a wonderful read, which mixes some technical discussion of the world of palaeontology and suspected means by which these creates lived millions of years ago. Recommended to those who are curious about the subject, in hopes that it will spurn discussion and further personal research.

I like to think that I took an interest in dinosaurs as a child, perusing them at museums when given the opportunity. I saw some of the movies based on Michael Chritchton’s books as well, which instilled some of the fear factor as it relates to the more carnivorous reptiles. However, unlike Brusatte, I did not have the same passion he possesses, which makes my reading of this book a little more of a challenge. Those who know me and my reviews will understand that I love to learn, something that Steve Brusatte helped with repeatedly in this piece. His detailed discussion, not only of the setting but its key players of the time, brought history to life in a way I had not thought before. As the narrative progressed, layering other discoveries from an earlier era helped to add depth to this book, which spends part of its time focussed on Brusatte’s studies and personal explorations. One theme that emerges throughout is that the evolution and downfall of the dinosaurs was by no means sudden—as in, a single event, per se—or uniform, but rather part of the evolutionary process the Earth undertook over time. Biblical literalists will bemoan much of the research and discussion that denotes the millions of years this took, but Brusatte is able to support his arguments with strong facts and details from many digs throughout the world. With easy to comprehend chapters that lead the reader throughout the dinosaur process, Brusatte offers much for the reader who may be a layperson when it comes to fossils and excavation. Brilliant in its delivery, it is one piece that should not be missed by anyone with an interest in the subject.

Kudos, Mr. Brusatte, for pulling me in from the opening chapters and helping me to appreciate more of the world’s early inhabitants. I would love to delve into some of your other published work!

This book fulfils the July 2019 requirement of the Mind the Bookshelf Gap Reading Group.

Like/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at:

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

    audiobook buddy-read mind-the-bookshelf-gap

✨ jami ✨

712 reviews4,144 followers

March 6, 2019

I was a dinosaur obsessed kid. I watched the entire Land Before Time series, many many times, and would rewatch BBC's Walking with Dinosaurs so often that I can still quote large segments of it verbatim despite not having watched it for over a decade.

I didn't know about this book until it won the Goodreads Choice Award for best non-fiction in 2018, and I knew I had to read it. Even though my obsession with Dinosaurs has faded, I still find the humongous animals that roamed the earth we stand on right now so freakin fascinating. They seem so alien and out of this world, its hard to really fully process they very much were alive and thriving 150 million years ago.

The information in this book was definitely interesting - when it related to the Dinosaurs. Research indicating Dinosaurs had feathers, information on new species such as a bad winged Dinosaur, crucial to understanding how Dinosaurs evolved into todays birds, explanations of how we know what colours Dinosaurs are, and conclusive proof that it was an asteroid that wiped out the Dinosaurs for good.

But that was kind of outweighed by the author - who was often incredibly annoying and injected his own story and relationships into the story way too often. He's like that guy in your class who is absolutely desperate for everyone to know he is, in fact, the smartest person in the room. The way he name dropped colleagues was not only annoying, but also confusing, as all the names got jumbled into one (and I was expected to remember them despite only being mentioned once 500 pages ago). The sexism also was a bit off-putting, especially one section that made me actually cringe - where the author gleefully recounts a palaeontologist event where the speaker spent his time talking about the bodies of female palaeontologists and talking about how many he had slept with. It reeked of the awkward nerdy boy in high school who said awful things about women to try and sound cooler but just ended up sounding like a dick everyone hated.

If you want to know about Dinosaurs, including so much emerging research you definitely would not have heard about before I do recommend this - but go into it with a huge grain of salt because the author was A Lot in my opinion. I couldn't skip his personal stories on the audiobook, but I would do that if you're reading physically.

Now, enjoy this picture of T-Rex drawn with the feathers they absolutely had

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a … (46)

    2019-reads audiobook history

BAM can’t even go to the gym without going to the ER

1,963 reviews432 followers

February 16, 2023

2/14 oh well what do you know it’s bowentimes day as my daughter used to say! I think since I am my own bowentime I deserve to buy myself some books you know since it’s been about 12 hours since I bought any. Anyway I finally bought the audio version of this book because I love it so much and I just cannot remember how to pronounce the names.

So I’m listening to this book this time just so I can hear how all of these dinosaurs 🦖 are pronounced. It’s easy to just guess, but I have a feeling I’m off, especially on the ones found in Asia. Or anything with an X in it. I’m also wondering if the bird 🦅 connection will still be my favorite part...

This book made me wish I was still a teacher. I could have built an entire unit around the information found in these chapters for all age groups. It can be simplified or really diversified for all abilities.
I was especially taken with the relationship between birds and dinosaurs. I knew this was the case, but the arguments of evolution were so sound I don’t see how it could be debated. It was also immensely enjoyable to read about both old school Dinos like T Rex as well as new discoveries that I’m not even going to try to spell.

    audiobooks desert-island-read five-stars


833 reviews63 followers

May 21, 2022

I’m late to the party with this book, and wasn’t planning to read it until I saw that the author has a new book coming out soon, on prehistoric mammals. That interested me as it’s not a subject I know much about. On the basis of “In for a penny, in for a pound”, I decided to try this out.

The book starts with description of the end-Permian extinction, regarded as the most severe of all the mass extinctions. I’ve read about this before but would say that the explanation in the book is one of the clearest I’ve encountered, if necessarily brief. The next geological period, the Triassic, was the one that saw the appearance of dinosaurs, though the author explains that they were relatively rare at this time. Much more numerous were a group of reptiles called pseudosuchians, although crocodiles and alligators are the only modern survivors of this lineage. The rest died out in what seems to have been another mass extinction at the end of the Triassic, and the author is honest enough to say that palaeontologists have no idea why the dinosaurs survived whilst the pseudosuchians almost all died out.

We get a run through the evolution of dinosaurs during the Jurassic and the Cretaceous, and I was particularly impressed with the chapter on the flying dinosaurs/birds. I was also interested to read that the author was the co-discover of fossilised sauropod footprints found on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. I remember that discovery being covered in the local press, although I hadn’t previously made the connection with the author of this book.

The author’s main interest seems though to be in the late Cretaceous, when he feels dinosaurs reached their maximum level of diversity. T-Rex gets a chapter all to itself. Presumably diversification would have continued had the asteroid not struck.

About the only thing I was less keen on was that the author liked to talk about his palaeontologist pals, and tell us what great guys they all are. On the whole though this was a very likeable book, and informative too.

I’m looking forward to reading the next one.

    4-star-non-fiction natural-history science


937 reviews

September 27, 2022

So much enthusiasm for the field is apparent in this book. Dinosaurs and their lives come to life, with the latest insights from science branching out in ever more remote places and fossil finds
Birds are dinosaurs

Love to return to one of my favorite topic of my childhood!
Dinosaurs are an incredible topic and Steve Brusatte clearly loves them and brings a lot of passion to the table, while reminiscing on growing up with Jurassic Park as a cultural milestone from his youth.

Every year 50 new species are being discovered, in countries as widespread as Poland, China (half of all new dinosaurs being discovered in China nowadays), Portugal and Argentina. In The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: The Untold Story of a Lost World we follow the story, through the fossil record, on how dinosaurs became dominant and then for millions of years interacted and changed due to their environments.
The world changed a lot during their reign, starting of with a areas as large as Western Europe in Siberia being covered by lava at the end of the Perm. This caused 90% of all species to die 225 million years ago, by runaway climate change due to volcano eruptions and related greenhouse gasses.

All this dying paved the ways for reptiles, in the form of lizards, turtles and salamanders rising in the Triassic jointly, with the precursors to full fledged dinosaurs living for more than 20 million years together with real, full fledged dinosaurs. Dinosaurs not moving into tropical zones initially due to more extreme weather and general conditions, plus them not being dominant in most ecosystems, is an interesting observation based on for instance fossilized footprints of dinosaurs.
Violent weather swings due to 6 times as much CO2 being in the early Triassic atmosphere than current days, combined with the slow splitting up of Pangea, leading to lava flows twice the height of the empire state building, made the living conditions far from easy.
Again mass extinction followed, with 95% of plants dying off due to volcanic induced 3-4c temperature increases at the end of the Triassic.

The end of the Jurassic with the split of Godwana in multiple continents, leading to smaller scale climate change and greater diversity in the Cretaceous, is another example of how changes in environment induced changes in dinosaurs species, providing partly explanations for Sauropods splitting their ecosystem in niches and them dying out together with Stegosauruses' at the end of the Jurassic.

The Cretaceous is definitely the most interesting from my perspective, and T-rex has a whole separate chapter in the book. Fascinating insights follow, like how T-rex gained 5 pounds a day during its teenage years to grow to its massive size, and how the species is likely to have had feathers, while hunting in packs, plus being potentially as intelligent as a chimpanzee being other interesting factoids.

A gay Transylvanian baron who found dwarf dinosaurs in Albania and Romania between World War I and World War II is another absolutely thrilling take on paleontology (more in him here:, while the fact that their are people who wrote a 1.200 page PhD thesis on Tyrannosaurus skulls made me happy that I haven't followed my passion for dinosaurs in an academic manner.

A very interesting book on a fascinating topic, showing the most recent insights from data analysis; I will definitely read the mammalian follow up to this book as well!

    non-fiction owned

Nick Parry

32 reviews3,639 followers

May 1, 2024

Steve’s excitement for dinosaurs and palaeontology oozes through every page and had me excited for him - haha! Great book.


789 reviews3,409 followers

Want to read

July 30, 2019

Fun 🦖 dinosaur 🦕 hunting tales old and new told in a light and airy style. A decent explanation of the shaky advent of dinosaurs in the early Triassic, which I didn’t know. Then around 220 million years ago, we move into the splitting up of Pangea and the long season of volcanic activity, say, 20,000,000 years, during which many non-dino species were wiped out. This was the big opportunity dinosaurs had been waiting for. What the book provides is the long chronology of dinosaurs and their appearance and development over 240 million years. A number of vexing questions are addressed, like how could the largest of the dinosaurs have managed life at such titanic size? The brontosaurus for instance?

One key reason was their exceedingly long necks which permitted them to reach higher into trees; Brusatte says it permitted them to eat the “huge meals necessary to put on excessive weight.” Second, was their astonishing ability to grow from “guinea-pig size hatchlings to airplane-size adults in only about 30 or 40 years.” The third feature was the development of a special new kind of lung. This unidirectional lung, seen today only in birds, was able to inhale air, yes, but also to save a little air and pass it back across the lung again on exhalation. This extra breathing efficiency made it possible for the animals to keep their large body masses cool. As part of the lungs the dinosaurs had a system of air sacs throughout their bodies. We know this because “...many bones of the chest cavity have big openings, called pneumatic fenestrae, where the air sacs extend deep inside. They are exactly the same structures in modern birds, and they can only be made with air sacs. The air sacs also have the added benefit of lightening the skeleton “when they invade bone. In fact they hollow out the bone, so that it still has a strong outer shell but is much more light weight... The vertebra were so engulfed by air sacs that they were little more than honeycombs, featherweight but still strong. And that’s advantage four: The air sacs allowed sauropods to have a skeleton that was both sturdy and the light enough to move around.”

A fascinating if brief picture of dino-era predation is also given, which shows all the mechanisms of selection working superbly hundreds of millions of years before Charles Darwin came along to articulate them.

They vanished after the Cretatious extinction event 66 million years ago when a meteor impact made the 112-mile wide Chicxulub crater (see Walter Álvarez) in the Gulf of Mexico.

This might be the right guy to serve us in the stead of Stephen Jay Gould. There’s no one even remotely like SJG but Mr. Brusatte might be a viable substitute. If he’s going to fill those shoes though, he’s going to have to read widely in areas of interest that have nothing to do with paleontology; this as a means of developing his own inimitable encyclopedic style—which should remain light and airy. (Why can’t all my male authors look as nice as this one?)

Tina Haigler

304 reviews107 followers

November 30, 2019

"A FEW HOURS BEFORE LIGHT broke on a cold November morning in 2014, I got out of a taxi and pushed my way into Beijing's central railway station."

I had no idea how little I actually knew about dinosaurs, until I read this. I was obsessed as a kid. I would read anything and everything dinosaur related I could get my hands on. As an adult though, I've been seriously slacking, which became all too apparent when I picked up this book.

This book covers from the period of Earth's history, before the first true dinosaurs came into play, all the way up to their extinction. It's absolutely fascinating! I have truly learned so much. You learn about plant life, Pangaea, how the world changed, about animals that lived among the dinosaurs, what the weather was like, the different environments, and so much more. It also contains first person accounts from the author's life, about his adventures fossil hunting around the globe with colleagues and teachers, as well as him studying and cataloging fossils with other scientists.

I've read a lot of reviews that claim the author is sexist, but I didn't find this to be the case at all. Sure, he mentions more men then women, but the women he does mention, are praised for their knowledge and skill. Where others saw a misogynist, I saw a man who highly respects his female colleagues. Also some people didn't enjoy reading about his personal adventures. I found that the stories of fossil hunting and groundbreaking discoveries broke up the monotony of the cut and dry scientific information, and that without it, the book would've been rather dull. After all, my brain can only soak up so much at once.

So if you love memoirs, dinosaurs, paleontology, geology, or any of the other related sciences that go along with fossils, this is a must read. However, if memoirs, dinosaurs, or science bore you, this simply isn't the book for you. Personally, I'll probably read this book more than once.

"If it could happen to the dinosaurs, could it also happen to us?"


aPriL does feral sometimes

1,999 reviews464 followers

November 18, 2023

'The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs' is an excellent introduction to Dinosaurs for general readers. The book has lots of drawings and photographs illustrating a very high-spirited and picturesque narrative describing the evolutionary history and daily lives of dinosaurs through the three periods of Time (maybe 235 million years ago until 66 million years ago) when the original dinosaurs existed, walked about and ate each other (if they weren't the vegetarian ones). Of course, birds, which are dinosaurs in disguise (my words) in their evolved state, still exist, so, many of us, including me, basically breakfast 🐣on dinosaurs 🦖 eggs every day 😁.

Bones which fit the definition scientists have decided means a dinosaur creature appear first in the Triassic period of Earth's geological history. Later, the bone record shows a flowering of many types of dinosaurs in the Jurassic age which followed the Triassic period. Dinosaurs disappeared suddenly in the Cretaceous period. How do we know this since no humans were around then? The book explains.

Since dinosaurs lived millions of years ago, all evidence of their existence is in dirt layers of the ground, in rocks, and in sea beds. People who love hiking and camping have been finding dinosaur bones and footprints for millennia in icky mucky and hot places (my opinion) all over the world ever since there have been explorers, ranchers, farmers, spelunkers, rock-climbers and construction workers. Needless to say, finding an almost complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton forty-two feet long in a field or a rocky hill excites people - especially scientists and lots of children, not that I am saying there is any correlation between immaturity and scientists, although many scientists confess to first adoring dinosaurs when they were children, including the author of this book, Steve Brusatte. ; )

My first favorite dinosaur was Cecil in ‘Beany and Cecil’ :, a kids’ cartoon show which was on Tv in 1962. I shoplifted a box of tiny plastic dinosaurs at my local five-and-dime when I was a kid. I wanted dinosaur toys SO bad! In my defense, I was ten years old and a ferocious T-Rex on occasion during playtime. Dinosaurs are simply awesome - ask any paleontologist! Who never had a dinosaur fascination? This book will only increase any dinosaur ❤️ love you have, gentle reader. From their skulls, some the size of small trucks, to the tips of their powerful tails, we readers learn about what the remains of this amazing animal tell people about their species. Brusatte describes some of the scientists who discovered dinosaurs and how they found bones as well.

Believe it or not, the intersection between the science of body structures and computers and Art have combined to allow us to make educated guesses about how dinosaurs moved and functioned. Based on studies of hip, spine and arm joints, on muscles and tissues and bones of current animals, on physics studies of living size/weight support structures of bodies, we now can ‘see’ vividly and accurately what dinosaurs were probably like. Some dinosaur bones have been discovered with fossilized tissue along with their bones. Microscopic and macroscopic examinations of dinosaur remains tell us who they are related to, what they ate (teeth structures), how they fought (claws and jaws and injuries to their bones), and what their age was at death (like trees, their bones have rings). Examinations of surrounding rocks where the dinosaur bones were found tell us what kind of environment the dinosaurs lived in and sometimes who they died with and from what. From such evidence as this we know some dinosaurs traveled maybe in packs, like wolves, probably even T-Rex! Mathematical studies of their stride from footprints can tell us their height, and from their fragments of bones we can extrapolate their size and weight.

The next time you find yourself staring at a plate of chicken bones, gentle reader, it is possible you are looking at an ancestor of a T-Rex. Perhaps it will give you pause for thought, as it did me while eating some fried chicken after reading 'The Rise and Fall of Dinosaurs'.

What is it about dinosaurs that fascinates us?

Everything. Just, everything.

‘The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs’ includes a huge section on source notes, an index, and acknowledgments.

    academic-notations history non-fiction

Tucker (TuckerTheReader)

908 reviews1,708 followers

May 24, 2020

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a … (55)
Many thanks to William Morrow for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

I never liked dinosaurs. There I said it. As a young boy, I hated anything that could be associated with "boys", "men" or "masculinity". Not in a sexist way. I just had undiagnosed gender dysphoria. But that's not what I am here to talk about today.

Even though I don't have much interest in dinosaurs, I still enjoyed this book. Mind you, that isn't because I understood a single word of what he was saying but because I could feel the pure joy and passion. It was almost like the author was sitting across from me, trying to explain to me the wonders of his world, smiling and stumbling over his words as one does when they are ecstatic.

That said, I was disappointed that I really didn't learn much because I couldn't understand what he was saying. Maybe it was me. Maybe not. I almost felt like I was missing something. Like, I had missed a class or seminar or previous book.
Even so, I loved his writing style. He was funny, light-hearted and used creative metaphors and clever wording.

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    3-stars finished-copies-physical nonfiction

Clif Hostetler

1,153 reviews861 followers

January 31, 2024

This book not only provides an overview of the current state of dinosaur research but also a history of paleontology and the characters who have worked in the field. It is a rapidly expanding field.

Right now is the golden age of dinosaur research. Somebody, somewhere around the world, is finding a new species of dinosaur now, on average, once a week. So that’s 50-some new species a year, and that’s not a new bone or a new skeleton, that’s a totally new type of dinosaur that we never knew existed before.
Prior to listening to this book, my knowledge of dinosaurs was based primarily on a smattering of news reports. Thus I previously had the impression that the bird-dinosaur relationship was a debatable hypothesis. But evidence now available seems quite convincing.
The Liaoning fossils sealed the deal by verifying how many features are shared uniquely by birds and other theropods, not just feathers but also wishbones, three fingered hands that can fold against the body, and hundreds of other aspects of the skeleton. There are no other groups of animals, living or extinct, that share these things with birds or theropods. This must mean that birds came from theropods. Any other conclusion requires a whole lot of special pleading.
Among the unique features shared by birds and dinosaurs is a respiratory system that provides highly efficient and light weight oxygen transfer system. No other species alive today has a respiratory system like this. To me this is the definitive proof of the relationship.

Its amazing what can be deduced about dinosaurs by modern science. For example, dinosaurs had color. Through the use of melanosomes it has been inferred that feathered dinosaurs had a variety of colors which leads to the possibility that the feathers were developed for display purposes—peaco*ck like—and subsequently turned into flying equipment through the evolutionary process.

The author Brusatte leads the reader through the various stages of dinosaur evolution, beginning with the Triassic Period when their presence was not dominate. However a mass extinction caused by large and continuing volcanic eruptions cleared the way for dinosaurs to dominate during the following Jurassic Period.

Brusatte devotes a whole chapter to the subject of T. Rex, the perfect “killing machine.” It is pointed out that their maximum life span was thirty years, and by the age of thirty they had a physic that would not allow them to run fast. Brusatte speculates that this may indicate that they hunted in packs because the T. Rex adolescents were lean and capable of running fast. The youth in the pack could catch the prey and the giant adults could move in for the kill.

Measurements of the brain cavity show that, "Rex was roughly as smart as a chimp and more intelligent than dogs and cats.” From the skeletal structure around the brain paleontologist are able to determine that the Tyrannosaurus possessed heightened sensory abilities and relatively rapid and coordinated eye and head movements. This included an enhanced sense of smell. It also had an enhanced ability to sense low frequency sounds that would allow tyrannosaurs to track prey movements from long distances.

The book provides an imagined description of what it would have been like to be alive on earth 66 million years ago at the time of the crash of the mighty meteor that ended the Jurassic Period killing off the dinosaurs except for birds. It appears that species that burrowed, had the freedom to fly, and could scavenge on dead organic material for several years after the meteor were the only ones that survived. No mammals at the time were larger than a modern badger. From this description I am convinced that if a similar sized meteor struck the earth now that it's highly questionable whether any humans could survive.

The following is a link to an excerpt from this book:

How Birds Survived the Asteroid Impact That Wiped Out the Dinosaurs:

The highly controversial idea that today’s birds are related to dinosaurs:


Jo (The Book Geek)

891 reviews

February 15, 2020

I love learning about dinosaurs. They fascinated me when I was in attendance at school, and as an adult, I find them even more so. What definitely doesn't fascinate me, is Steve Brusatte's writing, and the terribly irritating way he injects his own personal life story into this. Granted, he certainly knows his stuff, but I wanted to know specifically about dinosaurs, not what Steve Brusatte ate for breakfast approximately seven years ago.

I'm not ashamed to admit, that as a child, Jurassic Park was one of my favourite films. It is tongue in cheek, but that car scene outside of the Tyrannosaurus paddock, I'll never forget it.

There was some interesting information in here, but for the majority of the time, the way in which it was presented to the reader, made for tedious reading. I will definitely be searching for more books on the dinosaurs, but preferably some where the author isn't in love with the sound of his own voice.


Roy Lotz

Author1 book8,580 followers

June 16, 2019

Like so many people, I went through a dinosaur phase as a child. It was almost inevitable. Growing up on the Upper West Side, I could visit the Museum of Natural History nearly every week. Natural selection has overcome many engineering problems—flight, sight, growth, digestion—and it has certainly not failed in its ability to awe little boys. I picked up this book to finally learn something about these ancient beasts.

Any fair evaluation of this book must conclude that it does its job: it summarizes new discoveries about dinosaurs in accessible prose. Brusatte goes through the entire chronology of the group, from their beginnings as unremarkable reptiles which emerged after the great Permian-Triassic Extinction, to their gradual rise, growth, spread, and diversification, and finally to their eventual end—wiped out by an asteroid.

There are many interesting tidbits along the way. Dinosaurs had the efficient lungs we find in modern birds, which are able to extract oxygen during the inhale and exhale. They also had primitive feathers, which looked more like hairs. Indeed, modern birds are dinosaurs in the strict sense of the word. I was particularly surprised to learn that Tyrannosaurus Rex lived and hunted in groups; and that they achieved their massive size extremely quickly—growing several pounds a day for years on end.

I also appreciated Brusatte’s descriptions of the methods that paleontologists use—new statistical techniques for analyzing fossils, or piecing together ancient ecosystems, or determining rates of evolutionary change. Nowadays paleontologists to not merely look for old bones, but they study living animals to make hypotheses about the speed, strength, and size of these extinct creatures. One researcher even studied fossils under a microscope to deduce the color of the feathers from the indentations. Brusatte also covers some of the history of dinosaur research, which is surprisingly colorful—especially the tragic life of the Baron Franz Nopcsa von Felső-Szilvás.

So the book undoubtedly accomplishes its goal. My only complaint is the style. When Brusatte sticks to the science, he is clear and engaging. But whenever he chooses to embellish the story—which is rather too often—the prose becomes strained and grating. Here is a description of a seagull that opens his chapter on birds:

When the sun breaks through for a moment, I catch a glint reflected in its beady eyes, which start to dance back and forth. No doubt this is a creature of keen senses and high intelligence, and it’s onto something. Maybe it can tell that I’m watching. Then, without warning, it yawns open its mouth and emits a high-pitched screech—an alarm to its compatriots, perhaps, or a mating call. Or maybe it’s a threat directed my way.

In fairness, I did enjoy his description of what the dinosaurs would have experienced in the first few minutes after the asteroid impact.

More irksome, however, were the thumbnail sketches of his colleagues, which are interspersed throughout the book. I would have understood the necessity of these passages if Brusatte were introducing a researcher who would play an important role in the book. Yet inevitably these researchers were introduced with fanfare only to be immediately dropped. What is more, Brusatte always focuses on the quirkiest aspects of these researchers, in a superficial attempt at coolness; and he also makes sure to tell us that he is one of their best friends.

In one particularly aggravating example, Brusatte describes one researcher’s fashion (“leopard-print Lycra, piercings, and tattoos”), ethnicity (“half-Irish, half-Chinese”), hobbies (“raving and even occasionally DJ-ing in the trendy clubs of China’s suddenly hip capital”), and conversation style (“delivering caustic one-liners one moment, speaking in eloquent paragraphs about politics the next”). Does this add anything of value to the book?

These stylistic irritations mar what is otherwise an excellent popular book about dinosaurs. And since these offending passages do not add anything to the substance of the book, my advice is just to skip on until he gets back on the subject of dinosaurs—a topic which brings out the best in Brusatte.

    ignorance-of-experts this-and-that


457 reviews239 followers

July 17, 2020

For me that word is enough to at least flip through the pages of a book. Brusatte's work can be easily considered as a layman's guide to dinosaurs. Really enjoyed the almost casual and anecdotal narrative by the author, made me feel less dumb for not knowing anything "scientific" about the species. Quite remarkable how fast I finished reading this one, considering that I take lot more time reading non-fics. It was definitely a hard-to-put-down/away kind of a book.
I liked how the author busted a few myths about dinosaurs as have been portrayed in popular culture by stating reasons and explanations carried out through research done in the recent past. Extra points for the numerous illustrations and images of the locations and species that were mentioned.

All this mention of dinos made me reminiscent of a day I spent last year with these species :D
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a … (60)
That's a T-rex btw :)

And adding this place as a definite MUST-VISIT for my next trip...
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a … (61)
Bottom image is of the Yale Peabody Museum, courtesy Google

    audio fun-fun high-octane


137 reviews55 followers

July 4, 2019

Overall: A brilliant combination of paleontology, research, and evolution detailing the rise and fall of the dinosaurs told by a dinosaur expert. Enthusiastic, fact-filled, and wonderfully written, anyone will learn and be captivated by this book 7.5/10

Summary: Dr. Brusatte is an American paleontologist that now is a professor and consultant in Scotland at the University of Edinburgh and one of the most world-renowned dinosaur experts. 66 million years ago, the dinosaurs were wiped from the face of the earth. In this novel, Brusatte gives a detailed and exciting account of the evolution of the dinosaurs up until the mass extinction at the beginning of the Triassic period. Additionally, the book is filled with interesting stories from around the world as he progresses through his career as a paleontologist.

The Good: “Somewhere around the world,” Brusatte writes, “a new species of dinosaur is currently being found, on average, once a week. Let that sink in: a new dinosaur every … single … week.”

If that doesn’t get you excited, then maybe some of these facts will:
•Tyrannosaurus rex was strong enough to bite through a car
•Morocco and New York used to be connected during pangea
•Some of the dinosaurs could reach sizes of up to 50 tons!
•10,000 species of dinosaurs still exist
While we talk about the fall of the dinosaurs, tens of thousands of species of dinosaurs are
still among us. We call them birds. You may not believe it, but “birds are just a weird group of
dinosaurs that evolved wings and learned to fly. The realization that birds are dinosaurs is
probably the single most important fact ever discovered by dinosaur paleontologists.”

This book is awesome and the author absolutely brilliant. I loved the detail and research seeping through every sentence of this book. I mean, it literally oozes enthusiasm and I couldn’t help but get excited. Anything about dinosaurs is difficult to not be interested in, but this book really does take it to a new level. The writing is exceptional and he does a fantastic job at presenting the entire history and evolution of dinosaurs while also weaving in his journey as a paleontologist and recent discoveries that have been made. Highly recommend!

The Bad: I do not have much to say here. I wish there was a bit more time given to the theories around why early dinosaurs survived the hell of the Triassic extinction, leaving them free of competitors and thus able to multiply and dominate? There is so much literature and discussion (not in this book I am talking in general) devoted to the demise of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago and this is the first thing I have read that highlights their over 150 million year reign. Brusatte states “Far from being failures, they were evolutionary success stories.” Their fossilized remains can be found just about everywhere on earth and I do wish a bit more was devoted to theories as well as specifics, like anatomy and physiology, that helped them become so successful.

Z. F.

302 reviews90 followers

February 2, 2019

Like many kids, I went through a major dinosaur phase. My bedroom was dinosaur-themed, I memorized a whole slew of lengthy Latinate species names with their corresponding attributes, and I toted around a humongous book of dinosaurs (entitled The Humongous Book of Dinosaurs) until it was tattered and dog-eared. I'm not so obsessed now, but I still get excited when I imagine the fantastical menagerie of creatures that used to populate our planet, and I think it's kind of weird and sad that such a rich topic is considered by most adults to be kids' stuff—as if anything which isn't directly relevant to human life today isn't worth thinking about at all. Naturally, when I saw this beautiful new book (for adults!) at the library where I work, I had to pick it up.

It ended up being kind of an odd read, because, while the subject matter was consistently fascinating enough to keep me turning pages all the way through, I found the voice and personality of the author to be just as consistently grating. The result was a strange sort of cognitive dissonance which I guess is similar to what people mean when they talk about their "guilty pleasures": at no point did I feel like it was a waste of time or want to stop reading, but I also spent the whole thing half-annoyed and acutely aware of the stuff I didn't like.

Let's cover the positives first. As an overview of 150 million years or more of dinosaur evolution, from their earliest emergence to their eventual extinction (or rather near-extinction, since, as Brusatte is at pains to point out, modern birds are the dinos' direct descendants), the book does exactly what it's supposed to. Once-hazy (for me) details about the prehistoric timeline, the evolutionary family tree, and the mechanics of extinction came into clearer focus, and there were a lot of great factoids and details I never learned (and which, for that matter, probably weren't even known yet) during my childhood dino phase.


A few facts that stuck with me:
1) Brontosaurus is back to being a real dinosaur again (when I was a kid the consensus was that it wasn't), and there's little doubt now that a meteor/asteroid caused the Cretaceous extinction. (Back then you still heard that it was anyone's guess.)
2) In addition to the many dinosaurs which we now know had feathered appendages, there was at least one which actually had membranous wings like a bat. A feathered, lizardlike creature with bat wings? Sounds like a dragon if ever there was one. (Even if it was only the size of a pigeon.)
3) The dinosaurs first evolved when the supercontinent Pangea was more or less still in one piece, but by the time they died out tens of millions of years later the landmasses had drifted to almost their current positions. The geographically vague picture I think many of us have of the dinosaur age, with all the species living together in pretty much the same ecosystem, was basically reality in those early days, but later on when iconic dinos like T. Rex and triceratops were doing their thing there was just as much regional variation as with our modern animals. Those two species I just named actually lived exclusively in what's now western North America—in other words, even our conception of prehistoric megafauna has a serious U.S.-centric slant. (That's my own inference; Brusatte never delves into the sociopolitical implications.) In Europe, which during the Cretaceous was little more than a series of islands, there were actually miniature versions of all the bigger dinos running around instead!

So for that kind of info, this book is great. Brusatte even frames each chapter with a discussion of the major fossil discoveries and paleontological work that allow us to know such things without having been there, which I think is almost essential when writing about animals who are understood exclusively from their fossilized bones and byproducts. But it's also in these sections where Brusatte's more irritating characteristics are on full display, so with that I'll pivot to the negative.

There's this trend I've noticed in pop science books where the author will try to draw the reader in and "humanize" the subject matter with personal anecdotes: "Here's an interesting experience I had that was related to the science thing I'm about to talk about, so now you have a reason to care about it too." Brusatte does this constantly, but the simple truth is that most people picking up a book called The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs probably don't need a dull story about that time you looked at some cool rocks in Poland or the total rager of a paleontology conference (his enthusiasm, not mine) you attended in Brazil a decade ago in order to be interested in the giant, flesh-eating, bird/reptile hybrids you've promised to describe to us. It just distracts from the real meat of the book.

Even worse, Brusatte is a chronic name-dropper. It's not enough simply to shout out his influential colleagues, he's got to delineate exactly what professional relationship he shares with each of them, how well they get along (spoiler: he's best friends with everyone in the field), and more often than not the critical role he himself played in shaping their major discoveries. He wants very much to paint paleontologists as a cool and quirky bunch, with a word about everyone's fashion sense and personal hobbies and a frat boy fascination with their drinking habits, but the unfortunate result is that most of these apparently-brilliant scientific professionals end up coming off as the sort of try-hard "characters" you'd do your best to avoid at a party. And that's just the men. Women, on the rare occasion they're mentioned at all, are glossed over almost without a remark, and never receive the same hagiography as their male colleagues. Brusatte certainly isn’t solely responsible for the exclusion of women from the sciences, but for someone so eager to position himself as a major voice for his field, he sure doesn’t seem to mind the disparity much. (And that's not even getting into the cringey racial/nationalistic comments, e.g. ". . . he seemed to be a little darker than most of the Poles I knew. Tanned, almost. There was something vaguely sinister about him. . .")

Even when dealing with the dinos themselves, Brusatte's writing leaves something to be desired. He's definitely readable and competent at the sentence level, but his tone throughout the book is so breezy and so full of high-powered adjectives that at times I wondered if he wasn't sacrificing accuracy for cheap excitement. Probably the most overt example of this is when he describes a particular fossilized creature two different times as "mule-sized," only to include a photo which makes it clear the thing was hardly as big as a golden retriever. Maybe an innocent mistake, but a worrying one in a book that purports to be laying down hard scientific fact. What's more, he absolutely loves all that old-timey, imperialism-tinged language about the dinos conquering and colonizing and ruling over their domain, which reaches its zenith in the eye-rollingly effusive chapter about T. Rex ("What feast befits the King?" "Like so many monarchs, Rex was a glutton.") I know he's trying to appeal to a popular audience here, but it's still jarring to see that kind of lens applied so earnestly and uncritically in 2018.

In the end, Brusatte puts me in a weird position. Given the dearth of up-to-date dinosaur writing for the adult layperson, I'm glad someone stepped up to fill the niche. I just wish the someone in question had been, you know, anyone other than the guy who ended up doing it. My hope is that the success of this book will inspire a wave of new releases on prehistoric life. Until then I'll recommend Brusatte’s, but only with a long list of caveats.

    2000s microscopes-and-telescopes usa-and-canada


384 reviews285 followers

December 28, 2020

Dinosaur, grrrrrrr says George Pig (brother of Peppa Pig).

George loves Mr Dinosaur, and in a simplistic way this character from a kids cartoon mirrors children's and our wider interest and fascination with these creatures. As Stephen Brusatte says in this very informative and enjoyable study, most school-age children across the world can recognise a T-Rex or a Stegosaurus; many more can name and recognise many others too.

Dr Brusatte's book covers those two "big names" in the study of dinosaurs in detail, but showing the complexity of the world they inhabited and the various scientific disciplines that are involved, he clearly and engagingly discusses the world prior to the dinosaurs. He discusses many more too from small mammals to the giant sized planteaters and much in between. We learn of the Palaeozoic era and the world at this time with the supercontinents/lands of Gondwana/Laurasia [and later formed Pangaea] and the evolving life forms and, creatures inhabiting these. He describes the Permian period and the extinction 252 million years' ago event that led to the Mesozoic period [and for our story the sub-eras the Triassic and Jurassic] where the first true mammals evolved.

As we get to this period and the life forms evolve and Pangea starts to split the story develops with the spread of creatures, how they likely lived, hunted, fought or perhaps wisely scampered away. Weaved into this story are the discoveries of dinosaurs by amateurs, scientists and indeed prospectors. These finds and the people who found/find them sees us hear of or meet them. Dr Brusatte also provides the background to these areas as they are today and how they were in the Triassic and Jurassic periods. We learn of expeditions in Portugal, the US, Australia, China and Northern Europe and Britain. This in itself we are told is absolute proof dinosaurs roamed the world when it was the Panagean supercontinent, and proof too that as landmasses moved some dinosaurs moved and succeeded, whilst others stayed; both evolving to meet their new environments and the threats presented. We are treated to Dr Brusatte's own experiences in the field and alongside this the geology, food sources and climate. Throughout, the author is generous to his peers and helps show the fields of study and how, in the main, professionals and amateurs sit well alongside each other.

One area of focus is that where these latter discoveries coupled with developments in science and technology that has helped speed forward, challenge and adapt knowledge of the dinosaurs and how they lived and evolved during their lengthy tenure on Earth. Nowhere more so is this shown that in the understanding that dinosaurs had forms of feathers, were colourful in some cases and were fatally, in most cases, impacted by the meteor/comet strike that ended their reign. There is a fascinating chapter on birds and how they evolved from their ancestors.

Overall, this is a story to enjoy as the reader (or listener in my case) benefits from the professional knowledge of the author, alongside his love of his subject and ability to write about complex and multi-faceted aspects of the Earth's history. Rather like George Pig and Dr Brusatte, I too like Mr Dinosaurs. Grrrrrr.

I listened to the Audio Book published by Macmillan and read quite brilliantly by Patrick Lawlor []

    animals-ornithology nature


1,247 reviews79 followers

December 5, 2023

This was a book I HAD to read--to catch up on the subject I obsessed so much about in elementary school-Dinosaurs! When I was a kid I read every book on dinosaurs that I could find in my local library and my parents bought me even more books--and I was thrilled no end to go to the nearby Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago! but that was in the 60s and I thought we knew everything there was to know about the big guys. They were slow, brainless giants doomed to extinction so that the way could be cleared for The Rise of Man. But, as paleontologist Steve Brusatte points out, at the end of the 60s and going into the 70s, a new paradigm took shape, in which dinosaurs have been viewed as active, even energetic, animals, some being social and intelligent. Rather than doomed to failure, they were among the most successful animals for over 150 million years. If it had not been for what Brusatte calls "the worst day in the history of our planet," when the asteroid (or comet) hit our planet 66 million years ago, the dinosaurs would still dominate the Earth.
The good news is that the dinos did not completely die out. I see some flitting about my bird feeder even as I type this. The birds are now classified as dinosaurs, as theropods, related to T-rex and velociraptors. For me, the most interesting part of the book (as a bird-lover) is his discussing the origin and evolution of the birds (and feathers!). I'm so glad they escaped the Cretaceous (Fifth) Extinction Event, but it's an open question whether they can escape the current or Sixth Extinction Event...
I enjoyed this narrative greatly because not only does Steve share his passion with the reader (he's one guy who sure does love his job!) but he relates his experiences taking part in expeditions around the globe. This does seem to be a golden age of discovery of dinosaurs--and I missed out on it! BUT at least I can read about it. Thanks, Steve Brusatte! And I look forward to hearing more from this amazing young man!


120 reviews52 followers

July 12, 2018

The actual pop science part of this book is OK - a reasonably readable account of recent developments and discoveries in the sciences bearing of the history of the dinosaurs. If it had been edited to that level, it could have been a solid 3 stars.

Unfortunately, there is a peculiar injection of personalities into this book, and unpleasant personalities at that - imagine a cross of Animal House with Raiders of the Lost Arc. I finished reading this book because of my interest in the science, but I had to grit my teeth frequently.

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a … (2024)


What is the rise and fall of the dinosaurs A New History of a Lost World about? ›

Overview. The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World (2018) explores how animals developed on earth before the Paleogene period, when mammals emerged as the dominant life form.

Which era saw the rise and fall of the dinosaurs? ›

The Mesozoic era saw the rise of some of the most iconic animals, from Tyrannosaurus rex to birds and mammals. During the Mesozoic, or "Middle Life" era, life diversified rapidly and giant reptiles, dinosaurs and other monstrous beasts roamed the Earth.

What caused the rise of the dinosaurs? ›

But at the end of the Triassic, about 202m years ago, more than three-quarters of land and marine species were wiped out in a mysterious mass extinction event linked to vast volcanic eruptions that sent much of the world into cold and darkness. The devastation set the stage for the reign of the dinosaurs.

What is the history of dinosaurs called? ›

Dinosaurs lived during most of the Mesozoic era, a geological age that lasted from 252 million to 66 million years ago. The Mesozoic era includes the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Dinosaurs arose from small dinosauromorph ancestors in the Triassic period, when the climate was harsh and dry.

How dinosaurs changed the world? ›

In a matter of weeks to months, flat shorelines were turned into stomping grounds cut through with dinosaur-made troughs. The idea that dinosaurs were ancient landscapers shouldn't come as a surprise. Large animals alive today, such as elephants and giraffes, can change entire environments merely by walking and eating.

What was the world like after the dinosaurs died? ›

After the dinosaurs' extinction, flowering plants dominated Earth, continuing a process that had started in the Cretaceous, and continue to do so today. But all land animals weighing over 25 kilogrammes died out. 'What we're left with are basically the seeds of what we have today.

Could dinosaurs survive today? ›

Many of them probably could survive today. Dinosaurs ruled the world for 150 million years, and endured hot and cold spells, volcanic eruptions, and changing sea levels. There is nothing about today's world that would be fatal to them.

What era gave rise to dinosaurs? ›

Dinosaurs in the Triassic Period

It was around 240 million years ago that the first dinosaurs appear in the fossil record. These dinosaurs were small, bipedal creatures that would have darted across the variable landscape.

Was Earth hotter during dinosaurs? ›

In general, the climate of the Cretaceous Period was much warmer than at present, perhaps the warmest on a worldwide basis than at any other time during the Phanerozoic Eon. The climate was also more equable in that the temperature difference between the poles and the Equator was about one-half that of the present.

Are there dinosaurs in the Bible? ›

There are later descriptions of creatures in the Bible that could be referring to dinosaurs. One example is the behemoth of Job 40:15-19. Even in fairly modern history there are reports of creatures which seem to fit the description of dinosaurs.

What dinosaur has 500 teeth? ›

Bizarre 500-toothed dinosaur

On our first day, we found bones of the long-necked dinosaur Nigersaurus. Nigersaurus, you might remember, we named for bones collected on the last expedition here three years ago. This sauropod (long-necked dinosaur) has an unusual skull containing as many as 500 slender teeth.

What killed dinosaurs? ›

Evidence suggests an asteroid impact was the main culprit. Volcanic eruptions that caused large-scale climate change may also have been involved, together with more gradual changes to Earth's climate that happened over millions of years.

What was the main cause of the extinction of dinosaurs and what extinction was this called? ›

What caused the Cretaceous extinction? The exact nature of this catastrophic event is still open to scientific debate. Evidence suggests an asteroid impact was the main culprit.

How did they make the dinosaurs in the lost world? ›

Director Irwin Allen wanted to use stop-motion dinosaurs for this film, but due to budget reasons he had to use lizards - mainly monitor lizards - as dinosaurs. Plastic horns and spikes were attached to them to make them look more like dinosaurs.

What is the new theory of dinosaur extinction? ›

The study shows that the asteroid, while having a severe initial impact, did not immediately kill off the dinosaurs - instead slowly killing them off over a few years. Other researchers believe that the impact of the asteroid could have the same effects if a nuclear bomb were to strike Earth.

Which extinctions mark the rise and end of the dinosaurs? ›

Cretaceous-tertiary Extinction: 65 million Years Ago

Scientists refer to the major extinction that wiped out non-avian dinosaurs as the K-T extinction, because it happened at the end of the Cretaceous period and the beginning of the Tertiary period.

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