The Complete Guide to Prehistoric Life

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9780563522195: The Complete Guide to Prehistoric Life

The most exciting view of prehistoric life.

"Comprehensive, illustrated encyclopedia to prehistoric animals... lifelike detail... this easily readable book should appeal to dinosaur enthusiasts of all ages."
-Science News

The Complete Guide to Prehistoric Life. The book's concise, jargon-free text and full color illustrations bring the primordial world to vivid photo-realistic life. In-depth profiles of 112 kinds of beasts cover physical characteristics, lifestyle, habitat and behavior. Throughout, "fascinating fact" sidebars offer additional bits of "dinotrivia." But there is more than dinosaurs here. Readers will find creatures from triobites to early human beings.

At the heart of the book are 350 richly detailed and lifelike color illustrations -- accompanied by comprehensive text -- which are the result of pioneering work by the Emmy award-winning creative team at Framestore CFC. Using animation, graphic effects and filmmaking, they recreated awe-inspiring prehistoric creatures and the world they lived in. These images are now reproduced to thrill readers.

The Complete Guide to Prehistoric Life was published to accompany two BBC TV prime-time programs, Life Before Dinosaurs and Walking with Life, both part of the Discovery Channel's award-winning Walking with Dinosaurs series.

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About the Author:

Tim Haines trained as a zoologist before becoming a scientific journalist. He has worked on the BBC program, Nature, as well as its award-winning Ice Mummy trilogy. He is executive producer of the Walking With Dinosaurs series.

Paul Chambers has degrees in geology and paleontology and has worked at the London Natural History Museum. A writer and scientific advisor, he was researcher for the Walking With Dinosaurs series.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:


Almost ten years ago we started making a television series called Walking with Dinosaurs. At the time it was very expensive and high risk because it aimed to use Hollywood technology to educate and inform rather than simply entertain. We offered the audience a vision of dinosaurs as real animals, not vindictive monsters. Fortunately the series broadcast to record audiences, and has since been seen by almost 400 million people worldwide.

However, we knew at the time that we were telling only half the story. Many weird and wonderful creatures came before and after the dinosaurs. The extraordinary success of Walking with Dinosaurs allowed us to complete this story. Walking with Beasts detailed the evolution of the mammals after the dinosaurs died out, and Walking with Monsters revealed the wonderful variety of creatures that thrived before the dinosaurs evolved. We finished with seven and a half hours of television that covered 4 billion years, cost millions of pounds and told the biggest story of them all -- the evolution of life on Earth.

The combined coverage of these television series has allowed us to fulfil another long-standing ambition -- namely, to produce a book that could tell the same story using the unique high-resolution stills made possible by the materials produced specially for the programs. Across the following pages you will see careful re-creations of dozens of prehistoric animals, each sculpted by specialist modelers, scanned into a computer and then brought to life by talented animators.

Part of making these extinct animals look true to life was ensuring that we accurately portrayed the latest scientific thinking about their biology, behavior and lifestyle. At every stage over the last ten years we have depended on scientists to guide us about the look and feel of the animals we were re-creating. Much of this information is available in books and journals, but our desire for the latest and most up-to-date information often led us to talk to those scientists who routinely work with the fossils of specific animals. Over the years we have contacted more than 600 scientists, all experts in their field, and all of them major contributors to the sum total of our knowledge about the prehistoric world. Much of the information that appears in this book is thanks to them, and has never before been aired in public.

In addition to the computer-generated animals, the landscapes on to which they have been superimposed were also specifically chosen because their climate, plants and topography are a close match to the prehistoric environments in which our various animals lived. The background photographs in this book were taken in a wide range of exotic locations, from the jungles of Indonesia to the deserts of Utah and the coral reefs of the Red Sea and the Caribbean.

We believe that this book presents as accurate a vision of the world's prehistoric past as our technology presently allows, but the fossil record is far from complete, and new discoveries are constantly overturning established scientific 'truths': palaeontological thought does not stand still for long. All we can do is continue to refine our opinions and remain open to new evidence.

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