Synopses & Reviews
"The bright midday sun glinted off the calm waters of the Inland Sea and silhouetted the long, sinuous form of a huge mosasaur lying motionless amid the floating tangle of yellow-green seaweed. Twenty years old and more than thirty feet in length, the adult mosasaur was almost full-grown and was much larger than any of the fish or sharks that lived in the shallow seaway. A swift and powerful swimmer over short distances, the mosasaur used surprise and the thrust of his muscular tail to outrun his prey with a short burst of speed." --from Chapter One
Although Kansas is now high and dry, at one time the state, like most of the Midwest, was under water. Until the land finally rose above sea level during the final years of the Late Cretaceous, the area was covered by a succession of oceans whose geologic record is preserved in the sedimentary rock that covers the Great Plains.
Oceans of Kansas tells the story of the five million years when giant sharks, marine reptiles called mosasaurs, pteranodons, and birds with teeth flourished in and around this shallow sea. The abundant and well-preserved remains of these prehistoric animals were the source of great excitement in the scientific community of the day when they were first discovered in the 1860s. Two of the best-known fossil hunters of the time, E. D. Cope and O. C. Marsh, competed vigorously to recover the best specimens. During the past 130 years, thousands have been collected and sent to museums around the world.
Michael J. Everhart tells the fascinating story of their discovery, re-creates the animals and the world in which they lived, and presents the fruits of the latest research into the natural history of America's ancient inland sea.
Despite its title, this book is not a general treatment of marine paleoenvironments in Kansas. It is a history of fossil recovery, particularly vertebrates, from the Smoky Hill Chalk, a geologic formation representing a five--million--year slice of time from the Late Cretaceous Period. Ten of the 13 chapters are devoted to specific groups of animals. Each starts with a short fictional day in the life vignette but discusses largely who found what types of fossils when in the Chalk. One may doubt that there is any better historical summary of the discovery of these fossils, but behavioral, ecological, and evolutionary aspects that might interest a wider audience only take center stage sporadically, e.g., in the chapters on mosasaurs and pteranodons. This book is partly biographical since Everhart (curator of paleontology, Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Hays, KS) is an accomplished fossil hunter. It will be most useful to fossil collectors working in the local region and to historians of vertebrate paleontology. The extensive use of anatomical terms without any general explanatory diagrams hinders access by nonspecialists at times. The 40 pages of references at the end likewise cater more to those with paleontological expertise than to a general readership. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper--division undergraduates through professionals.B. M. Simonson, Oberlin College, 2006jan CHOICE Indiana University Press Indiana University Press
"... Oceans of Kansas remains the best and only book of its type currently available. Everhart's treatment of extinct marine reptiles synthesiszes source materials far more readably than any other recent, nontechnical book-length study of the subject.... Everhart is always headed somewhere, and the journey is informed by expertise..." --Copeia Indiana University Press
"... [The book] will be most useful to fossil collectors working in the local region and to historians of vertebrate paleontology.... Recommended." --Choice
"Overall, at $39.95 for a hardback book, Everhart's book is more than just a fun read. It is a reference book for the fauna of the Cretaceous and, for that reason, the price is a steal for the scientific information housed within these pages. The book also does a great job of delivering valuable, detailed information about the specimens... Many authors would probably skip some of these important details since they are very cumbersome to manage, but it is obvious to me that Everhart's years of experience have taught him that sometimes the smallest detail can help another paleontologist now or perhaps even 100 years from now." --Palaios
"... excellent... Those who are interested in vertebrate palaeontology or in the scientific history of the American mid-west should really get a copy. You will not be disappointed!" --PalArch's Journal of Vertebrate Palaeontology
A journey to a time when sea monsters roamed an ocean in the middle of America.
About the Author
Michael J. Everhart, Adjunct Curator of Paleontology at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays, Kansas, is an expert on the Late Cretaceous of western Kansas. He is the creator of the award-winning "Oceans of Kansas" paleontology website at www.oceansofkansas.com. He lives in Derby, Kansas.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction: An Ocean in Kansas?
2. Our Discovery of the Western Interior Sea
3. Invertebrates, Plants, and Trace Fossils
4. Sharks: Sharp Teeth and Shell Crushers
5. Fishes, Large and Small
6. Turtles: Leatherback Giants
7. Where the Elasmosaurs Roamed
8. Pliosaurs and Polycotylids
9. Enter the Mosasaurs
10. Pteranodons: Rulers of the Air
11. Feathers and Teeth
13. The Big Picture
Epilogue: Where Did It Go?