Invertebrate Paleontology and Evolution
Power of Paleontology, June 21, 2002
This very fine invertebrate paleontology textbook strikes a nice balance between focus on the paleobiology/taxonomy of the organisms and theoretical topics in the science. The well-crafted illustrations help to make the sometimes intricate details of fossil morphology clear. Clarkson has a knack for bringing forth key details that illuminate ancient organisms (e.g., the hysteresis mechanisms that control the liquid in cephalopod chambers), and he writes with a wry sense of humor (see the Lehmann quotation on p. 245). The importance of convergent evolution is apparent throughout the book, and is one of the main lessons to be learned from the science of invertebrate paleontology. The next edition of this book needs to stop calling the Ediacarans a "fauna" (the term "biota" is preferable, as we are not sure that Ediacarans were indeed animals). I also have quibbles with the higher taxonomy presented in this book for other groups. Overall, however, this is an outstanding presentation of invertebrate paleontology.
A Comprehensive Treatment of a Fascinating Field of Study, May 5, 2007
Dr. Clarkson presents a detailed and informative summary of all major aspects of invertebrate evolution. The book is organized in a step-wise fashion that introduces the reader to the main principles of the field of paleontology (including genetics, populations and micro- and macroevolution) and then moves into detailed descriptions of the various invertebrate phyla. Be aware that this is not your typical coffee table book; rather, it is written at a level best appreciated by those with a biological background or by introductory students in this field. Descriptions are appropriately detailed and concise and are accompanied by a wealth of similarly detailed drawings and images. I particularly enjoyed his chapters on molluscs, echinoderms and crinoids. It is a valuable accompaniment to other books that have been written on the Burgess Shale and early forms of non-vertebrate life. Both the armchair paleontologist and the professional will find this to be a most valuable addition to his or her collection of books on this wonderfully diverse group of ancient animals.