Cover image for The rise and fall of the dinosaurs : a new history of a lost world / Stephen Brusatte.
The rise and fall of the dinosaurs : a new history of a lost world / Stephen Brusatte.
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2018.

Physical Description:
404 pages : illustrations, maps, geneological table ; 23 cm
Prologue : the golden age of discovery -- The dawn of the dinosaurs -- Dinosaurs rise up -- Dinosaurs become dominant -- Dinosaurs and drifting continents -- The tyrant dinosaurs -- The king of the dinosaurs -- Dinosaurs at the top of their game -- Dinosaurs take flight -- Dinosaurs die out -- Epilogue : after the dinosaurs.
Subject Term:


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
567.9 BRU Book Adult General Collection

On Order



"THE ULTIMATE DINOSAUR BIOGRAPHY," hails Scientific American: A thrilling new history of the age of dinosaurs, from one of our finest young scientists. Now a New York Times bestseller!

Goodreads Choice Awards WINNER * Named "Science Book of the Year" by The Times (London) * One of Smithsonian's "Ten Best Science Books" of the year * An NPR Science Friday, Popular Mechanics, Science News, Library Journal, Booklist, and Chicago Public Library Best Book of the Year

"This is scientific storytelling at its most visceral, striding with the beasts through their Triassic dawn, Jurassic dominance, and abrupt demise in the Cretaceous." -- Nature

The dinosaurs. Sixty-six million years ago, the Earth's most fearsome creatures vanished. Today they remain one of our planet's great mysteries. Now The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs reveals their extraordinary, 200-million-year-long story as never before.

In this captivating narrative (enlivened with more than seventy original illustrations and photographs), Steve Brusatte, a young American paleontologist who has emerged as one of the foremost stars of the field--naming fifteen new species and leading groundbreaking scientific studies and fieldwork--masterfully tells the complete, surprising, and new history of the dinosaurs, drawing on cutting-edge science to dramatically bring to life their lost world and illuminate their enigmatic origins, spectacular flourishing, astonishing diversity, cataclysmic extinction, and startling living legacy. Captivating and revelatory, The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs is a book for the ages.

Brusatte traces the evolution of dinosaurs from their inauspicious start as small shadow dwellers--themselves the beneficiaries of a mass extinction caused by volcanic eruptions at the beginning of the Triassic period--into the dominant array of species every wide-eyed child memorizes today, T. rex, Triceratops, Brontosaurus, and more. This gifted scientist and writer re-creates the dinosaurs' peak during the Jurassic and Cretaceous, when thousands of species thrived, and winged and feathered dinosaurs, the prehistoric ancestors of modern birds, emerged. The story continues to the end of the Cretaceous period, when a giant asteroid or comet struck the planet and nearly every dinosaur species (but not all) died out, in the most extraordinary extinction event in earth's history, one full of lessons for today as we confront a "sixth extinction."

Brusatte also recalls compelling stories from his globe-trotting expeditions during one of the most exciting eras in dinosaur research--which he calls "a new golden age of discovery"--and offers thrilling accounts of some of the remarkable findings he and his colleagues have made, including primitive human-sized tyrannosaurs; monstrous carnivores even larger than T. rex; and paradigm-shifting feathered raptors from China.

An electrifying scientific history that unearths the dinosaurs' epic saga, The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs will be a definitive and treasured account for decades to come.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

As Brusatte, a paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh, ably demonstrates, dinosaurs are not just for kids. His captivating text explores the excitement associated with searching for and discovering new dinosaur species, provides clues to many long-standing questions associated with dinosaurs, and furthers the understanding of ecological and evolutionary principles. This volume is a mix of memoir, chronicling Brusatte's personal odyssey from a child smitten by dinosaurs to a member of a vibrant scholarly community, and first-rate science writing for the general public. Brusatte does a superb job of relating current research, both his own and that of many colleagues around the globe. His explanations of how sauropods became so large, the reasons for the dominance of Tyrannosaurus rex, the evolution of flying ability in some dinosaurs, and the factors leading to the demise of most of these creatures are carefully crafted and presented. Brusatte is not shy about saying what is not yet known, while making it clear that this is a truly exciting period, in which new fossils are being uncovered at a dizzying pace. B&w illus. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

New York Review of Books Review

IF THE IDEA that Morocco once butted up against New York strikes you as just hohum; if your mind doesn't boggle that 10,000 species of dinosaurs still exist; and if you're not impressed that Tyrannosaurus rex was strong enough to bite through a car - then this book is not for you. But if John McPhee's love affair with rocks in "Annals of the Former World" floats your boat, and so does Janna Levin's entertaining narrative in "Black Hole Blues and Other Songs From Outer Space," you're going to love "The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs," by the paleontologist Steve Brusatte. Brusatte skillfully brings dead dino bones to life as he shares - no, gushes about - his personal journey as a young fossil hunter and the people he's met along the way. It's an "I can't wait to tell you, listen to this!" page turner, dropping one aha moment after another. "Somewhere around the world," he 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." Poof. Mind blown. You think he enjoys what he does? The geek in me loves the tsunami of fine details flooding the page, written in the breezy style of a rising star millennial scientist. Brusatte systematically takes us through the various stages of dinosaur evolution, starting with the pre-dino Triassic Period, when a mass extinction cleared the path for their rise. Dinosaurs could not have flourished without these dramatic events that reshaped the earth just over 250 million years ago - lava spewing from countless erupting volcanoes, smothering life wherever it flowed, greenhouse gases blanketing the planet, heating the ancient ocean and triggering a sweltering global warming that helped wipe out most living land animals. Yet the head-scratcher remains: Why did early dinosaurs survive the hell of the Triassic extinction, leaving them - free of competitors - to multiply and dominate? "I wish I had a good answer," Brusatte confesses. "It's a mystery that quite literally has kept me up at night.... Maybe dinosaurs were just lucky." The author can't be blamed for devoting a whole chapter to the king of the dinosaurs: T. Rex. The perfect "killing machine" has been a fan favorite in movies dating back to the classic "King Kong," after all, achieving its greatest role in Steven Spielberg's "Jurassic Park" - the film that changed the author's life. "So many scientists are impulsively drawn to the majesty that is the King, the way so many people are obsessed with movie stars and athletes," Brusatte writes. He offers plenty of meat about Rex to chew on, especially the way it chewed: its bite terrifyingly unique among all dino carnivores. "Rex bit deeply into its victim, often right through the bones, and then ripped back." As befitting a king, T. Rex's technique has been given its own name: "puncture-pull feeding." Yet missing from most movies is the evolving picture of Rex as an ancestor of birds, with feathers sticking out between its scales to keep it warm, and perhaps doubling as a mating display. And Rex was no dummy. Measurements of the brain cavity show "Rex was roughly as smart as a chimp and more intelligent than dogs and cats." And while dinosaurs did roam the entire length of the planet, North America was Rex's sole domain. Its teeth lie buried all over the continent. The often discussed dino demise 66 million years ago obscures their 150-millionyear reign, making them among the most successful creatures ever to walk the planet. "Far from being failures," Brusatte writes, "they were evolutionary success stories." Their fossilized remains can be found just about everywhere on earth. And 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, the author says, 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." Young scientists like Brusatte and his buddies share a palpable sense of wonder. "I get the creeps when looking at the earliest Triassic tracks. I can sense the long-distant specter of death." This emotional connection, and Brusatte's collection of personal stories and characters, make his book special. There's the tale of Georgia O'Keeffe's Ghost Ranch, "bursting with dinosaur bones," becoming a mecca for young paleontologists who flocked there after her death. Chances are, says Brusatte, "if you go see a big dinosaur exhibit today you'll see a Ghost Ranch Coelophysis," the "quintessential Triassic dinosaur." We also meet Baron Fronz Nopcsa von Felso-Szilvas, the flamboyant "tragic genius" spy whose World War I fossil-hunting adventures in Transylvania would end in the murder-suicide of him and his lover. "Dracula," Brusatte writes, "has nothing on the Dinosaur Baron." And there's the incomparable Barnum Brown, who in 1902 would discover the first T. Rex and go on to become "the first celebrity paleontologist" - if alive today he "would be the star of some outrageous reality show. And probably a politician." Paleontology has plenty of personalities, and Brusatte pulls no punches describing their political and racial baggage. You'll get to know Henry Fairfield Osborn, president of the prestigious American Museum of Natural History, who, because of his views on white supremacy, immigration and eugenics, is "often dismissed today as a bygone bigot." Osborn, Brusatte notes, was "probably not the type of guy I'd want to have a beer with." But his science was spot on. Like Woody Allen's Zelig, Brusatte is always at the right place at the right time. At Hell Creek, Mont., for the discovery of a "Triceratops graveyard," startling evidence that Triceratops was a pack species. Hanging with his mentor Mark Noreli in his fabled Central Park office at the American Museum. In China, drooling over the collection of feather-covered fossils curated by the "world's greatest dinosaur hunter," China's Xu Xing, just a stone's throw from the "paleontologista" Jingmai O'Connor and her "leopard print Lycra, piercings and tattoos." We marvel at the talented biologist Jacob Vinther, whose microscope found the color in dinosaur feathers that allowed them - like peacocks - to become better at flirting. (Only by accident, typical of evolution, did they learn to fly.) As an awe-struck fanboy Brusatte makes a pilgrimage to Italy to watch the iconic Walter Alvarez show off his historic discovery: a thin layer of clay in an obscure gorge, the long-sought remains of a disintegrated asteroid, and the first solid evidence for the idea that a cataclysmic impact wiped out the dinosaurs. The physicist Richard Feynman marveled at how nature's beauty is hidden in her details. He could find extra enjoyment in the beauty of a flower because he also understood the inner workings of the plant. The beauty of this book lies in the details, too, and in the stories of the scientists who dig them up. 'Rex was roughly as smart as a chimp and more intelligent them dogs and cats.' IRA flatow is the executive producer and host of public radio's "Science Friday."

Library Journal Review

To any dinosaur enthusiast, paleontologist Brusatte (geosciences, Univ. of Edinburgh, Scotland; Dinosaurs) has a dream job: he travels all over the world to dig for and study dinosaur fossils, serves as resident paleontologist for the BBC's Walking with Dinosaurs miniseries and writes popular books on the subject. Here he traces how meek, little protodinosaurs evolved into the supercarnivores and colossal plant-eaters of the Mesozoic world, all the while adapting to drifting continents, shifting sea levels, and fluctuating climate. He then fills in the big evolutionary picture with details that bring the dinosaur species to life-what they looked like, how they lived, breathed, grew, and moved-and concludes with an explanation of why he unhesitatingly believes that dinosaurs went out at the top of their game, victims of a catastrophic asteroid. As Brusatte tells the dinosaurs' story, he also tells his own: how he turned a boyhood obsession with dinosaurs into an exhilarating scientific career. VERDICT While dinosaur books may not be a hard sell, one by a top paleontologist and lively writer should not be missed. Highly recommended for the dinosaur obsessed and anyone even mildly curious about the evolutionary importance of these iconic creatures.-Cynthia Lee Knight, Hunterdon Cty. Historical Soc., Flemington, NJ © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.