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The Last Days of the Dinosaurs: An Asteroid, Extinction, and the Beginning of Our World

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In The Last Days of the Dinosaurs, Riley Black walks readers through what happened in the days, the years, the centuries, and the million years after the impact, tracking the sweeping disruptions that overtook this one spot, and imagining what might have been happening elsewhere on the globe. Life’s losses were sharp and deeply-felt, but the hope carried by the beings that In The Last Days of the Dinosaurs, Riley Black walks readers through what happened in the days, the years, the centuries, and the million years after the impact, tracking the sweeping disruptions that overtook this one spot, and imagining what might have been happening elsewhere on the globe. Life’s losses were sharp and deeply-felt, but the hope carried by the beings that survived sets the stage for the world as we know it now. Picture yourself in the Cretaceous period. It’s a sunny afternoon in the Hell Creek of ancient Montana 66 million years ago. A Triceratops horridus ambles along the edge of the forest. In a matter of hours, everything here will be wiped away. Lush verdure will be replaced with fire. Tyrannosaurus rex will be toppled from their throne, along with every other species of non-avian dinosaur no matter their size, diet, or disposition. They just don’t know it yet. The cause of this disaster was identified decades ago. An asteroid some seven miles across slammed into the Earth, leaving a geologic wound over 50 miles in diameter. In the terrible mass extinction that followed, more than half of known species vanished seemingly overnight. But this worst single day in the history of life on Earth was as critical for us as it was for the dinosaurs, as it allowed for evolutionary opportunities that were closed for the previous 100 million years.


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In The Last Days of the Dinosaurs, Riley Black walks readers through what happened in the days, the years, the centuries, and the million years after the impact, tracking the sweeping disruptions that overtook this one spot, and imagining what might have been happening elsewhere on the globe. Life’s losses were sharp and deeply-felt, but the hope carried by the beings that In The Last Days of the Dinosaurs, Riley Black walks readers through what happened in the days, the years, the centuries, and the million years after the impact, tracking the sweeping disruptions that overtook this one spot, and imagining what might have been happening elsewhere on the globe. Life’s losses were sharp and deeply-felt, but the hope carried by the beings that survived sets the stage for the world as we know it now. Picture yourself in the Cretaceous period. It’s a sunny afternoon in the Hell Creek of ancient Montana 66 million years ago. A Triceratops horridus ambles along the edge of the forest. In a matter of hours, everything here will be wiped away. Lush verdure will be replaced with fire. Tyrannosaurus rex will be toppled from their throne, along with every other species of non-avian dinosaur no matter their size, diet, or disposition. They just don’t know it yet. The cause of this disaster was identified decades ago. An asteroid some seven miles across slammed into the Earth, leaving a geologic wound over 50 miles in diameter. In the terrible mass extinction that followed, more than half of known species vanished seemingly overnight. But this worst single day in the history of life on Earth was as critical for us as it was for the dinosaurs, as it allowed for evolutionary opportunities that were closed for the previous 100 million years.

30 review for The Last Days of the Dinosaurs: An Asteroid, Extinction, and the Beginning of Our World

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nataliya

    April 26: Publication day! ————— “Beginnings need endings, a lesson that we can either hold carefully or that we can deny until it finds us.” Sixty-something million years ago the world irrevocably changed. One day enormous colossal herbivores and carnivores a.k.a. T. rex and Co. rule the world, shaping itself their needs and creating an ecosystem in which the world of the Cretaceous era thrives. The next day that world is mostly gone, the fascinating prehistoric monsters dead and the world eve April 26: Publication day! ————— “Beginnings need endings, a lesson that we can either hold carefully or that we can deny until it finds us.” Sixty-something million years ago the world irrevocably changed. One day enormous colossal herbivores and carnivores a.k.a. T. rex and Co. rule the world, shaping itself their needs and creating an ecosystem in which the world of the Cretaceous era thrives. The next day that world is mostly gone, the fascinating prehistoric monsters dead and the world eventually becoming the place for mammals, with only tiny feathered dinosaurs — yes, think about that next time a pigeon poops on you, and a hummingbird is an ex-dino just like a chihuahua is an ex-wolf — living on, while their mighty cousins whose skeletons are breathtaking and majestic and command our imagination remained trapped forever behind the Cretaceous–Paleogene (K–Pg) boundary. “In a matter of hours, everything before us will be wiped away. Lush verdure will be replaced with fire. Sunny skies will grow dark with soot. Carpets of vegetation will be reduced to ash. Contorted carcasses, dappled with cracked skin, will soon dot the razed landscape.” The story of how we got there is often in the minds of many summarized as such: “Often, this is about as far as the discussion goes: an immense rock smacked into the planet and myriad species were summarily snuffed out. Simple as that.” Riley Black decided to give us the details - the infrared pulse, the infernal fires, the impact winter, the acid rain, and how it may have affected different dinosaur species and why. “This time, the great rock is going to hit. It’s not going to get bumped off course by another asteroid. It’s not going to burrow into Mars and crack the Red Planet’s dry surface. It’s not going to slam into the orbiting moon, as many other rocks have, making lunar seas and craters. Out of millions of potentially deadly rocks, this is the one. This is the accident that will exact an awful toll on Earth’s species, but without malice or vengeance. It’s both end and beginning, a period that will punctuate the Earth and create a stark dividing line between the seemingly endless Age of Reptiles and the fiery dawn of the Age of Mammals.” ———— “The battle for life on the first day of the Paleocene is won and lost by little more than biological threads. Only those organisms that are able to find shelter—below the ground, beneath the water—have any chance. All others, from the largest Edmontosaurus to the smallest insect, perish. There is no behavior that can save them. Evolution prepared them for the world of tomorrow, and perhaps the day after, but not for this.” Black focuses not just on the catastrophe but on the interplay between the species since the ecosystems are all about the links between the organisms. She does it in an almost nature documentary style, bringing the point of view of one creature, then another and so on (and explaining her reasons for making certain choices in the chapter notes in the end, that are almost a long as the book itself). Dinosaurs in the before and during the asteroid strike, the survivors - birds, turtles, crocodiles - shortly after, and early mammals in the hundreds of thousands to a millennium after. The end of one era and the beginning of another. “The mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous isn’t just the conclusion of the dinosaurs’ story, but a critical turning point in our own. We wouldn’t exist without the obliterating smack of cosmic rock that plowed itself into the ancient Yucatán. Both stories are present in that moment. The rise and the fall are inextricable.” Life is tenacious, and extinction for some allows another to take the niche freed because, as we see, sometimes pure luck and happenstance equip some to deal with the end of the world as they know it just a bit better than the less lucky ones. We ultimately are the benefactors of that one stray asteroid. T. rex and buddies were less lucky, those majestic doomed monsters. So it goes. “This is not a monument to loss. This is an ode to resilience that can only be seen in the wake of catastrophe.” I liked it. I liked the clear palpable love and enthusiasm Riley Black has for that period of history that ended so abruptly and brutally. I liked how well she captures those imaginary points of view of different creatures. I even liked the very long chapter notes where she explains things that were too much to put in the main narrative. It’s very accessible and interesting and clearly a work of love. 4 stars. “No species is an island. No species is a discrete and complete package by itself. A species is an expression of the interaction between organisms in its environment. […] Any organism is a node that is bound to and reliant on the others around it, whether there is any direct interaction between them or not. The actions of even one organism affect others, which affect others still, entire unseen webs of possibility that pulsate through each vital moment—the thread of life itself.” —————— Also posted on my blog.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    The disaster goes by different names. Sometimes it’s called the end-Cretaceous mass extinction. For years, it was called the Cretaceous-Tertiary, or K-T, mass extinction that marked the end of the Age of Reptiles and the beginning of the third, Tertiary age of life on Earth. That title was later revised according to the rules of geological arcana to the Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction, shorted to K-Pg. But no matter what we call it, the scars in the stone tell the same story. Suddenly, i The disaster goes by different names. Sometimes it’s called the end-Cretaceous mass extinction. For years, it was called the Cretaceous-Tertiary, or K-T, mass extinction that marked the end of the Age of Reptiles and the beginning of the third, Tertiary age of life on Earth. That title was later revised according to the rules of geological arcana to the Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction, shorted to K-Pg. But no matter what we call it, the scars in the stone tell the same story. Suddenly, inescapably, life was thrown into a horrible conflagration that reshaped the course of evolution. A chunk of space debris that likely measured more than seven miles across slammed into the planet and kicked off the worst-case scenario for the dinosaurs and all other life on Earth. This was the closest the world has ever come to having its Restart button pressed, a threat so intense that—if not for some fortunate happenstances—it might have returned Earth to a home for single-celled blobs and not much else. -------------------------------------- The loss of the dinosaurs was just the tip of the ecological iceberg. Virtually no environment was left untouched by the extinction, an event so severe that the oceans themselves almost reverted to a soup of single-celled organisms. This is a story about two things, Earth’s Big Bang and evolution. K-Pg (pronounced Kay Pee Gee - maybe think of it as KFC with much bigger bones, where everything is overcooked?) marks the boundary between before and after Earth’s own Big Bang, manifested today by a specific layer of stone in the geologic record. Riley with Jet - image from The Museum of the Earth Ok, yes, I know that the catastrophic crash landing of the bolide, a seven-miles-across piece of galactic detritus, most likely an asteroid, that struck 66.043 million years ago, give or take, was not the biggest bad-parking-job in Earth’s history. An even bigger one hit billions of years ago. It was nearly the size of Mars, and that collision may have been what created our moon. Black makes note of this in the book. But in terms of impact, no single crash-and-boom has had a larger effect on life on planet Earth. Sure, about 3 billion years ago an object between 23 and 36 miles across dropped in on what is now South Africa. There have been others, rocks larger than K-Pg, generating even vaster craters. But what sets the Chicxulub (the Yucatan town near where the vast crater was made, pronounced Chick-sue-lube) event on the apex is its speed and approach, 45 thousand mph, entering at a 45-degree angle. (You wanna see the fastest asteroid ever to hit Earth? Ok. You wanna see it again?) It also helps that the material into which it immersed itself was particularly likely to respond by vaporizing over the entire planet. An excellent choice for maximum destruction of our mother. And of course, its impact on life, animal life having come into being about 800 million years ago, was unparalleled. In the short term, it succeeded in wiping out the large non-avian dinosaurs, your T-Rex sorts, Triceratops grazers, brontosaurian browsers, and a pretty large swath of the planetary flora as well, burning up much of the globe and inviting in a nuclear winter that added a whole other layer of devastation. Aqueous life was not spared. You seen any mososaurs lately? Even tiny organisms were expunged en masse. (Cleanup in aisle everywhere!) Image from Facts Just for Kids Here’s what the Earth looked like just before, just after, and then at increments, a week, a month, a year, and on to a million years post event. It is a common approach in pop science books to personalize the information being presented. Often this takes the form of following a particular scientist for a chapter as she or he talks about or presents the matter under consideration. In The Last Days… Black lets one particular species, usually one individual of that species per chapter, lead the way through the story, telling how it came to be present, how it was impacted by the…um…impact, and what its descendants, if there would be any, might look like. She wants to show why the things that were obliterated came to their sad ends, but also how the things that survived managed to do so. Quetzcoatlus - image from Earth Archives But as fun and enlightening as it is to track the geological and ecological carnage, like an insurance investigator, (T-Rex, sure, covered. But those ammonites? Sorry, Ms. Gaea, that one’s not specified in the contract. I am so sorry.) is only one part of what Riley Black is on about here. She wants to dispel some false ideas about how species take on what we see as environmental slots. Mesodma - image from Inverse Some folks believe that there are set roles in nature, and that the extinction of one actor (probably died as a result of saying that verboten word while performing in The Scottish Play) leads inevitably to the role being filled by another creature (understudy?) As if the demise of T-Rex, for example, meant that some other seven-ton, toothy hunter would just step in. But there is no set cast of roles in nature, each just waiting for Mr, Ms, or Thing Right to step into the job. (Rehearsals are Monday through Saturday 10a to 6p. Don’t be late), pointing out that what survived was largely a matter of luck, of what each species had evolved into by the time of the big event. If the earth is on fire, for example, a small creature has a chance to find underground shelter, whereas a brontosaurus might be able to stick it’s head into the ground, but not much else, and buh-bye bronto when the mega-killer infrared pulse generated by you-know-what sped across the planet turning the Earth into the equivalent of a gigantic deep fryer and making all the exposed creatures and flora decidedly extra-crispy. Thescelosaurus - image from Wiki Black keeps us focused on one particular location, Hell Creek, in Montana, with bits at the ends of every chapter commenting on things going on in other, far-away parts of the world, showing that this change was global. When the impact devastates the entire planet, it makes much less sense to think of the specific landing spot as ground zero. It makes more sense to see it as a planet-wide event, which would make the entire Earth, Planet Zero. It was not the first major planetary extinction, or even the second. But it was the most immediate, with vast numbers of species being exterminated within twenty-four hours. Thoracosaurus - image from artstation.com I do not have any gripes other than wishing that I had had an illustrated copy to review. I do not know what images are in the book. I had to burrow deep underground to find the pix used here. I expect it is beyond the purview of this book, but I could see a companion volume co-written by, maybe, Ed Yong, on how the microbiomes of a select group of creatures evolved over the eons. For, even as the visible bodies of critters across the planet changed over time, so did their micro-biome. What was The Inside Story (please feel free to use that title) on how the vast array of bugs that make us all up changed over the millions of years, as species adapted to a changing macrobiome. Purgatorius - image from science News I love that Riley adds bits from her own life into the discussion, telling about her childhood obsession with dinosaurs, and even telling about the extinctions of a sort in her own life. What glitters throughout the book, like bits of iridium newly uncovered at a dig, is Black’s enthusiasm. She still carries with her the glee and excitement of discovery she had as a kid when she learned about Dinosaurs for the first time. That effervescence makes this book a joy to read, as you learn more and more and more. Black is an ideal pop-science writer, both uber-qualified and experienced in her field, and possessed of a true gift for story-telling. Also, the appendix is well worth reading for all the extra intel you will gain. Black explains, chapter by chapter, where the hard science ends and where the speculation picks up. Black incorporates into her work a wonderful sense of humor. This is always a huge plus! Eoconodon - image from The New York Times Pull up a rock in the Hell Creek amphitheater. Binoculars might come in handy. An escape vehicle (maybe a TVA time door?) of some sort would be quite useful. Get comfortable and take in the greatest show on Earth (sorry Ringling Brothers) There literally has never been anything quite like it, before or since. The Last Days of the Dinosaurs a joy to read, is one of the best books of the year. From the time life first originated on our planet over 3.6 billion years ago, it has never been extinguished. Think about that for a moment. Think through all those eons. The changing climates, from hothouse to snowball and back again. Continents swirled and bumped and ground into each other. The great die-offs from too much oxygen, too little oxygen, volcanoes billowing out unimaginable quantities of gas and ash, seas spilling over continents and then drying up, forests growing and dying according to ecological cycles that take millennia, meteorite and asteroid strikes, mountains rising only to be ground down and pushed up anew, oceans replacing floodplains replacing deserts replacing oceans, on and on, every day, for billions of years. And still life endures. Review posted – May 13, 2022 Publication date – April 26, 2022 I received an ARE of The Last Days of the Dinosaurs from St. Martin’s Press in return for working my ancient, nearly extinct fingers to the bone to write a review that can survive. Thanks, folks. This review has been cross-posted on my site, Coot’s Reviews. Stop by and say Hi! =============================EXTRA STUFF Links to the author’s personal, FB, Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter pages Profile from Museum of the Earth Vertebrate Paleontologist & Science Writer Riley Black is a vertebrate paleontologist and science writer. She is passionate about sharing science with the public and writes about her experiences as a transgender woman in paleontology. Riley began her science writing career as a Rutgers University undergraduate. She founded her own blog, Laelaps, and later wrote for Scientific American, Smithsonian Magazine, National Geographic, and more. Riley has authored books for fossil enthusiasts of all ages, including Did You See That Dinosaur?, Skeleton Keys, My Beloved Brontosaurus, and Written in Stone. Riley loves to spend time in the field, searching the Utah landscape for signs of prehistoric life. Her fossil discoveries are in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, the Natural History Museum of Utah, and the Burpee Museum of Natural History. Riley’s work in the field fuels her writing. She believes doing fieldwork is the best way to learn about paleontology. In your own words, what is your work about? “What really holds my work together is the idea that science is a process. Science is not just a body of facts or natural laws. What we find today will be tested against what we uncover tomorrow, and sometimes being wrong is a wonderful thing. I love the fact that the slow and scaly dinosaurs I grew up with are now brightly-colored, feathered creatures that seem a world apart from what we used to think. I believe fossils and dinosaurs provide powerful ways to discuss these ideas, how there is a natural reality we wish to understand with our primate brains. The questions, and why we’re asking them, are more fascinating to me than static answers.”Interviews -----IFL Science - IFLScience Interview With Riley Black: The Last Days of the Dinosaurs - video - 15:40 – with Dr. Alfredo Carpineti - There is a particularly lovely bit at the back end of the interview in which Black talks about the inclusion in the book of a very personal element -----Fossil Friday Chats - "Sifting the Fossil Record" w/ Riley Black” - nothing to do with this book, but totally fascinating Items of Interest from the author -----WIRED - articles by the author as Brian Switek -----Scientific American - articles by the author as Brian Switek -----Riley’s site – a list of Selected Articles -----Science Friday - articles by the author -----Excerpt Items of Interest -----Earth Archives - Quetzlcoatlus by Vasika Udurawane and Julio Lacerda -----NASA - Sentry Program -----Science Friday - Mortunaria - a filter-feeding plesiosaur -----Biointeractive - The Day the Mesozoic Died: The Asteroid That Killed the Dinosaurs - on the science that produced our understanding of how the dinosaurs died out – video – 33:50 -----Wiki on the Hell Creek Formation -----Destiny - The First Minutes The Dinosaurs Went Extinct - about 13 minutes - video on the short term impact of the impact - pretty intense

  3. 4 out of 5

    Olive Fellows (abookolive)

    A highly cinematic portrait of what life was like for the dinosaurs before and after the asteroid impact (as they were immediately or slowly dying off). Notably, the author takes us through incremental periods of time following the world-altering impact and shows how life forged on after the devastation. Click here to hear more of my thoughts on this book over on my Booktube channel, abookolive! A highly cinematic portrait of what life was like for the dinosaurs before and after the asteroid impact (as they were immediately or slowly dying off). Notably, the author takes us through incremental periods of time following the world-altering impact and shows how life forged on after the devastation. Click here to hear more of my thoughts on this book over on my Booktube channel, abookolive!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Glen

    I won this book in a goodreads drawing. A wonderful book that tells the story of how dinosaurs went extinct after the asteroid hit. Not only are the scientific facts covered, but there are vignettes that tell the story from the perspective of various creatures. Highly recommended.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kara Babcock

    Dinosaurs grabbed me, as usual, when I was a kid, but I wouldn’t say that my fascination has endured as it has with some. Nevertheless, at some point last year, I had a moment where I decided to seek out more information on these creatures and their extinction. This is not the first book I added to my to-read list, but it happens to be the first book I’ve read, mostly thanks to getting an eARC from NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press. The Last Days of the Dinosaurs wasn’t what I was expecting, yet Dinosaurs grabbed me, as usual, when I was a kid, but I wouldn’t say that my fascination has endured as it has with some. Nevertheless, at some point last year, I had a moment where I decided to seek out more information on these creatures and their extinction. This is not the first book I added to my to-read list, but it happens to be the first book I’ve read, mostly thanks to getting an eARC from NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press. The Last Days of the Dinosaurs wasn’t what I was expecting, yet it was a pleasant surprise. Have you ever watched one of those “documentaries” on Discovery Channel that are more like recreations? It starts with an asteroid hurtling towards Earth, and then there are computer-generated sequences of dinosaurs running for cover while a narrator in a refined British accent explains how they are all about to die. That’s what’s going on here. Riley Black narrates the extinction of the non-avian dinosaurs (and many other species). She chooses a main character for each chapter, a Triceratops, Edmontosaurus, or sometimes even a plucky mammal perhaps distantly related to us. Then she uses that focal point to explore changes to the environment and the evolutionary adaptations and accidents that contributed to some species surviving and others … well, not. That is the crux, of course: we think of the extinction event as “the end of the dinosaurs,” and it was … but it was also the beginning of the Age of Mammals. Without that asteroid, then in all likelihood there wouldn’t be us. Moreover, Black correctly situations this mass extinction on a continuum of other such extinctions throughout the history of life on Earth—each extinction altering the balance enough to allow different types of life to take hold in ways never before seen. So while it probably sucks from the perspective of a species going extinct, these extinctions are, in the end, part of the natural cycle. Also, the dinosaurs had a pretty good run—orders of magnitude longer than we humans have been around—so I don’t feel that sorry for them. At first, Black’s decision to narrate events without any reference to how we might know, for example, that dinosaurs used trees as back-scratching posts, annoyed me. I like the story of how. I want to understand how the human ingenuity that is the scientific method led to the knowledge we have of events millions of years in the past. That is what I think is so cool. Fortunately, Black did something clever. After the conclusion of the book (I was surprised to run into it only 70 percent of the way in), there is a lengthy appendix where she goes, chapter-by-chapter, over the “how” of each event. So if you are a stickler like me, don’t throw the book out after the first couple of chapters: stick with it, and you will be rewarded! Indeed, one of my first thoughts as I was reading the book and ran across phrases like “lush verdue” was, “Oh, Riley Black can *write.*” I say this because there is a difference between a competent science communicator and a writer, and Black is both of these things. So that, in turn, makes the choice to split the narrative from the scientific explication even more palatable: as I said above, reading the first part of this book is very much like watching a recreation documentary. It’s compelling in a way that perhaps mixing the two wouldn’t have been. So while the choice irked me at first, I not only have come around, but I’m fully in favour of it simply because Black has the writing skills to back it up. I learned a lot from this book too. Paleontology has come a long way since I was a kid. I had heard the news that even non-avian dinoasurs probably had feathers, or at least a fuzz approaching feathers. I’ve followed some cool announcements about estimates of T-rex populations, etc. But they never really come back to dinosaurs in school after that initial fascination as a kid, so there was a lot I didn’t know. For example, I was under the impression that the death of most non-avian dinosaurs was a gradual, drawn-out process following the impact event itself. Black marshals evidence that disagrees: according to some studies, it’s more likely that the infrared pulse from the impact fried pretty much all organic life on the surface of the planet within minutes. That is to say, the dinosaurs died very quickly, with only a few holdouts under the water or the ground to represent their species for the remainder of their lives. So that was new to me. Similarly, Black’s telescoping orders-of-magnitude approach to chapters—a minute after, a day after, a month after, a year after, a hundred years after, etc.—helped me wrap my head around the time frame of the recovery of life. Beyond informing us about the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs, this book has a lot to teach us about the ways in which ecosystems interact. Black spends a great deal of time focusing on the complex interconnections among creatures, from the relationship between pollinators and flowers or seedcones and birds to the roles played by apex predators like T-rex, brought low more often through the smallest micro-organisms than through a challenge from another dinosaur. I think we humans often have this tendency to think very discretely, and Black’s writing really encourages us to see the dinosaurs in a holistic way, as part of this vast tapestry of life, rather than as an entirely different type of life form. As a final aside, I had the pleasure when reading the conclusion of learning that Black is, like me, a trans woman (and, like me, transitioned in adulthood). I’m not saying I like the book more for that, but it was really like a cherry on top of this reading experience, seeing more of us out there, thriving, writing about our passions. That’s the future I want. So, if like me you are having one of those random urges to learn a particular topic, and that topic happens to be dino-related, I recommend this book! Originally posted on Kara.Reviews, where you can easily browse all my reviews and subscribe to my newsletter.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Irene

    Black takes a bit of a controversial approach in this book, presenting different situations in which animals found themselves after the K–Pg event, narrated in the first person. I enjoyed it, but I'm sure a lot of people will take issue with it. I can tell all these narratives were based on extant fossils, and honestly, anybody demanding facts doesn't understand what palaeontology is about. We have very little information and a messed up fossil record, so the best we can do is speculate wildly, Black takes a bit of a controversial approach in this book, presenting different situations in which animals found themselves after the K–Pg event, narrated in the first person. I enjoyed it, but I'm sure a lot of people will take issue with it. I can tell all these narratives were based on extant fossils, and honestly, anybody demanding facts doesn't understand what palaeontology is about. We have very little information and a messed up fossil record, so the best we can do is speculate wildly, and this was as good a way as any to do it. Black did go into the ways mammals were able to survive and thrive, from finding shelter from the initial searing heat and the ensuing issues that reduced sunlight caused (if you think we have a supply chain problem, imagine if the sun was shining at 80%!), and that was definitely my favourite part of the book. I had a small problem with the section about avian dinosaurs' brain size correlating to their intelligence, with smaller animals automatically being less intelligent than bigger ones. I don't think you'll find an ornithologist that will tell you that a crow is less smart than an ostrich. That aside, it was an enjoyable read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    The Inquisitive Biologist

    The Last Days of the Dinosaurs offers a beautifully written narrative of mass extinction and its aftermath, and adds thoughtful observations on the role of evolution in ecosystem recovery. Read my full review at https://inquisitivebiologist.com/2022... The Last Days of the Dinosaurs offers a beautifully written narrative of mass extinction and its aftermath, and adds thoughtful observations on the role of evolution in ecosystem recovery. Read my full review at https://inquisitivebiologist.com/2022...

  8. 4 out of 5

    Hunter Blackthorne

    I really wanted to love this. Like many millennials, I grew up fascinated by creatures of the past- but especially dinosaurs. I was expecting a deep dive into new (relative to when I was a child) discoveries and theories about the last days of the dinosaurs, but instead I was given a so-so storytelling from the animals' perspective, which came off as childish to me. This book is better suited for someone with no prior knowledge. I really wanted to love this. Like many millennials, I grew up fascinated by creatures of the past- but especially dinosaurs. I was expecting a deep dive into new (relative to when I was a child) discoveries and theories about the last days of the dinosaurs, but instead I was given a so-so storytelling from the animals' perspective, which came off as childish to me. This book is better suited for someone with no prior knowledge.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay Nixon

    I love dinosaurs. Always have. Wanted to be a paleontologist as a child. This book fell very flat for me. While there is fascinating information in the book at times, it is vastly bogged down and dragged out through an attempted story narrative. Specifically, the author creates fictional dinosaurs and describes their last day in detail “She went here. She smelled death. She went there. She ate this” (but with a lot more detail). It became very draining. I kept wanting to speed the book up to get I love dinosaurs. Always have. Wanted to be a paleontologist as a child. This book fell very flat for me. While there is fascinating information in the book at times, it is vastly bogged down and dragged out through an attempted story narrative. Specifically, the author creates fictional dinosaurs and describes their last day in detail “She went here. She smelled death. She went there. She ate this” (but with a lot more detail). It became very draining. I kept wanting to speed the book up to get to the actual facts about dinosaurs. Actually, I'd just rather hearing facts about the dinosaurs rather than have to tease them out of the long rambling "stories." It also became very repetitive. By halfway I didn’t want to read anymore. Thanks netgalley for my ARC

  10. 4 out of 5

    Annette

    This book is about an extinction level event that destroyed the dinosaurs. I thought the book started out really good and interesting. After about more than half way through it becomes boring. The author talked about being transgender. I’m not sure what that had to do with the dinosaur extinction. It seemed a rather unnecessary inclusion. For the most part I enjoyed the book. I think maybe the author could have included a picture of the dinosaurs she was talking about. It would have added to wha This book is about an extinction level event that destroyed the dinosaurs. I thought the book started out really good and interesting. After about more than half way through it becomes boring. The author talked about being transgender. I’m not sure what that had to do with the dinosaur extinction. It seemed a rather unnecessary inclusion. For the most part I enjoyed the book. I think maybe the author could have included a picture of the dinosaurs she was talking about. It would have added to what was happening. Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the early copy

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kristy

    I loved this. This book was completely fascinating and gave me a lot of things to think about with regards to evolution, life, change, etc. . Highly recommend if you have any interest in dinosaurs or Earth's history at all. . "Life has no plan or direction. Life is not seeking a way and burrowing into those cracks and crevices with any thought of tomorrow. But I think pretentious as he could be, the fictional Dr. Malcolm was sidling up to a different formulation, one that includes constraint and pos I loved this. This book was completely fascinating and gave me a lot of things to think about with regards to evolution, life, change, etc. . Highly recommend if you have any interest in dinosaurs or Earth's history at all. . "Life has no plan or direction. Life is not seeking a way and burrowing into those cracks and crevices with any thought of tomorrow. But I think pretentious as he could be, the fictional Dr. Malcolm was sidling up to a different formulation, one that includes constraint and possibility, growth and death. And it is simply this. It's the lesson that those million years between the Age of Dinosaurs and Age of Mammals teaches us: If there's a way, life will find it."

  12. 5 out of 5

    Josh Hedgepeth

    4-4.5/5 stars

  13. 5 out of 5

    Coral

    This was incredible! So descriptive and, honestly, devastating.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bill Holmes

    Riley Black’s very enjoyable book charges through the last day of the Cretaceous and the first million years of the Paleocene with a mix of science and informed speculation. Each chapter looks at a different time, from a day before the Chicxulub impact until a day one million years later, through the imagined experiences of animals who are believed to have lived during each period. The accounts are of course fictionalized, but each chapter is tied to a corresponding appendix that takes a closer Riley Black’s very enjoyable book charges through the last day of the Cretaceous and the first million years of the Paleocene with a mix of science and informed speculation. Each chapter looks at a different time, from a day before the Chicxulub impact until a day one million years later, through the imagined experiences of animals who are believed to have lived during each period. The accounts are of course fictionalized, but each chapter is tied to a corresponding appendix that takes a closer look at the science supporting the speculation. (This was a “two book mark” read for me—after I read each chapter, I jumped back to the appendix to learn more about what’s really known and what’s just a plausible guess.). I came away from the book with a better understanding of how immediate the extinction was. Unlike the other four great extinctions that took millennia or even millions of years to complete their work, the asteroid strike at the end of the Cretaceous wiped out almost all of the non-avian dinosaurs within the first 24 hours of impact. Survival was determined by an animal’s behavioral repertoire—species that by their nature burrowed underground or lived in the water had a far better chance of surviving than the non-avian dinosaurs who had literally no place to hide (and absolutely no behavioral inclination to seek shelter). The ejecta from the impact heated up the atmosphere like an oven and set forest fires around the world, burning and baking most dinosaurs and large animals. Three years of global winter and years of acid rain disrupted land and ocean food chains, killing off most of the survivors of the initial catastrophe. The slate was wiped clean in a day and a few decades, and we are here because of that contingency. If the asteroid had missed the earth or had hit on land or in an ocean instead of in a coastal area, we wouldn’t be around to reflect on the point—and dinosaurs might still rule the earth.

  15. 5 out of 5

    David

    I love Black’s previous writing on dinosaurs and this was a joy to read. It’s not as focused on dinosaurs as the cover suggests; the majority ends up being post-extinction but it’s so good that I was still engaged. Each chapter is focused on a moment or day ranging from shortly before the KT extinction to millions of years after. I loved how it would zero in on an individual dinosaur or other creature and fleshed out who they were, what their life was like, and a glimpse in to their daily life. I love Black’s previous writing on dinosaurs and this was a joy to read. It’s not as focused on dinosaurs as the cover suggests; the majority ends up being post-extinction but it’s so good that I was still engaged. Each chapter is focused on a moment or day ranging from shortly before the KT extinction to millions of years after. I loved how it would zero in on an individual dinosaur or other creature and fleshed out who they were, what their life was like, and a glimpse in to their daily life. At times it felt like I was reading historical fiction, but instead of a duchess it’s about a T-Rex; Bridgerton season three, take notes! Along with the day to day aspects were dives in to how their species evolved to that point and how they evolved (or why they didn’t) due to the extinction event and aftermath. Every chapter had at least one moment that made me go, “wait what woah” and deepened my understanding of evolution and prehistoric life (as well as some great descriptions like “perpetual resting dinosaur face”). The narration is solid and is at its best when something terrible is being foreshadowed or happening; that narrator loves mess and chewed that scenery in such a fun way.

  16. 4 out of 5

    emma june

    I can’t think of many things scarier than the K-Pg extinction. It’s always been something that gives me chills to think about. Our brains aren’t made to grasp an apocalypse on that scale, and what’s always struck me is the absolute freak nature of it: if anything had gone slightly different the last 65 million years would be completely unrecognisable. This was a really interesting book in detailing before and after the asteroid hit. The first third of the book paints a picture of Hell Creek in t I can’t think of many things scarier than the K-Pg extinction. It’s always been something that gives me chills to think about. Our brains aren’t made to grasp an apocalypse on that scale, and what’s always struck me is the absolute freak nature of it: if anything had gone slightly different the last 65 million years would be completely unrecognisable. This was a really interesting book in detailing before and after the asteroid hit. The first third of the book paints a picture of Hell Creek in the days preceding the asteroid impact, while the remaining chapters detail the aftermath (one hour after impact, one year after impact, and so forth into a million years). While the main focus is on Hell Creek, each chapter also contains a section on a different area of the planet, showing the aftermath on a global scale. It’s quite a unique perspective as most books on dinosaurs mark the end of the Cretaceous as the end of the dinosaurs, while that’s decidedly not true. This book not only talks about the avian dinosaur survivors, but also the impact this event had on marine reptiles, insects, flora and fauna as well as, of course, mammals.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Chris Bauer

    Absolutely brilliant balance of creative license and a scientist's expertise, this nonfiction work weaves together the best of both worlds. Black is a strong storyteller who combines passion for the topic with a flair for the dramatic. Extensive footnotes support the work but don't slow it down. The chronological perspective of what likely happened after the Yucatan strike was a fascinating read. A really unique and thought-provoking work. Absolutely brilliant balance of creative license and a scientist's expertise, this nonfiction work weaves together the best of both worlds. Black is a strong storyteller who combines passion for the topic with a flair for the dramatic. Extensive footnotes support the work but don't slow it down. The chronological perspective of what likely happened after the Yucatan strike was a fascinating read. A really unique and thought-provoking work.

  18. 4 out of 5

    ScaryShelley

    So, this is a very long enthusiastic review, which got a bit away from me, so here’s the short version: this book is amazing, and if you love dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures, you need to read it. If you don’t, read this book, and you’ll grow to love them! It will reshape your fundamental understanding of dinosaurs, the rise of mammals, and the very nature of life and ecosystems on this planet. Like many people, I loved dinosaurs and prehistoric animals as a kid. As an adult, I’ve continued r So, this is a very long enthusiastic review, which got a bit away from me, so here’s the short version: this book is amazing, and if you love dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures, you need to read it. If you don’t, read this book, and you’ll grow to love them! It will reshape your fundamental understanding of dinosaurs, the rise of mammals, and the very nature of life and ecosystems on this planet. Like many people, I loved dinosaurs and prehistoric animals as a kid. As an adult, I’ve continued reading books about science, including quite a few books about dinosaurs, but it’s been a while since I came across a book about prehistory that reignited the sense of joy and wonder I felt as a kid, the sense that there was so much still to discover. The Last Days of the Dinosaurs did this for me, reinvigorating my sense of wonder, and my desire to know more. Black’s account of the end of the K-Pg extinction reads like a story, inviting the reader to the fifth mass extinction in Earth’s history, and the series of events that led to the end of the non-avian dinosaurs and the improbable rise of mammals. Black focuses particularly on the Hell’s Creek Formation and uses several species found there at different points in time as actors in her prehistoric scenes. These species range from the well-known and charismatic dinosaurs just before their extinction to lesser-known creatures such as the tiny, tree-shrew-like early primate and insectivore, Purgatorius. She also checks in on other locations around the world in vignettes to demonstrate the impact’s global reach. Each chapter is set in a different time period, beginning at just before the impact (chapter one) and finally ending at one million years after the impact (chapter eight). As Black discusses in her Conclusion and Appendix, this book isn’t intended to be completely factual. She takes known information and extrapolates creatively to paint a compelling picture of what might have been. Her gifted writing makes the case that the boundary we tend to put between the hard sciences and the humanities is artificial and damaging. By using her imagination to extrapolate (and, yes, occasionally speculate), Black brings this prehistoric world to life in a way I haven’t seen before from any writer. Her storytelling makes complex processes and ideas much easier to grasp for the non-expert. As adults, I think we often get the sense, especially with things in the far past, that knowledge is somehow “done” or complete, and that we don’t have anything more to learn. We get complacent and stop challenging the world and ourselves. I’m ashamed to say I had a little of this attitude before reading this book and learning, among other things, that: there used to be inch-long fleas(!), we’re still discovering dozens of new dino species a year, and the explosion of flowering plants post impact directly contributed to mammalian (and primate!) success. Really, I could write for quite a while about what I learned, but it’s probably best that you go read the book for yourselves. Black’s book altered my understanding of how ecosystems work and how niches and species proliferate. She shows that no life or species exists in a vacuum, and that the rise of flowering plants and the eventual diversification of mammals post Chicxulub Impact wasn't inevitable. A few years ago, I had the chance to see the K-Pg boundary (as Black notes, anachronistically still called K-T boundary) near Trinidad, Colorado just as she describes in her conclusion. My new knowledge has enriched that memory, and made me want to see it again soon. I’m very grateful for St. Martin’s Press for reaching out to me about this book, and for NetGalley for giving me the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Dennis Hogan

    Finished The Last Days of the Dinosaurs: An Asteroid, Extinction, and the Beginning of Our World by Riley Black, wonderful book, both speculative and scientific about the day a 7 mile wide asteroid struck earth (and the months afterward) and precipitated what is known as The Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event the sudden, mass extinction of three-quarters of the plant and animal species on Earth, approximately 66 million years ago. This event and its aftermath is a unique look at astro physics Finished The Last Days of the Dinosaurs: An Asteroid, Extinction, and the Beginning of Our World by Riley Black, wonderful book, both speculative and scientific about the day a 7 mile wide asteroid struck earth (and the months afterward) and precipitated what is known as The Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event the sudden, mass extinction of three-quarters of the plant and animal species on Earth, approximately 66 million years ago. This event and its aftermath is a unique look at astro physics, geology and paleontology in layman’s terms.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Susan Tunis

    3.5 stars.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Douglas Anstruther

    An excellent trip back in time that offers a humbling view of geologic time scales. Also a good update on a field of study that has changed a surprising amount over the last few decades.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Katy

    I thought this was a thoroughly fascinating read. Black paints spectacular images in the readers head through her writing and I was completely engrossed. The only thing that I didn't love that was on the audiobook version, it isn't easy to flip to the appendices and therefore it is hard to determine what is based on speculation and what is based on the scientific literature. I thought this was a thoroughly fascinating read. Black paints spectacular images in the readers head through her writing and I was completely engrossed. The only thing that I didn't love that was on the audiobook version, it isn't easy to flip to the appendices and therefore it is hard to determine what is based on speculation and what is based on the scientific literature.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Stanek

    Although I typically listen to fiction when I'm enjoying audiobooks in my car. Non-fiction is typically for curling up at home with a book when I have more ability to focus on details. However, this one got me in my zoologist's heart. Learning more about how this world changed immediately and then slowly over the course of millions of years, very interesting information!! And telling stories essentially from the viewpoints of the dinosaurs, giving you a feel for what their lives were like and ev Although I typically listen to fiction when I'm enjoying audiobooks in my car. Non-fiction is typically for curling up at home with a book when I have more ability to focus on details. However, this one got me in my zoologist's heart. Learning more about how this world changed immediately and then slowly over the course of millions of years, very interesting information!! And telling stories essentially from the viewpoints of the dinosaurs, giving you a feel for what their lives were like and even how they FELT, it went a long way to immerse you in their story and get a better understanding. I also enjoyed hearing personal snippets from the author, giving a better understanding of their life's journey and their passion for this topic! Overall, a really great book from an author who clearly knows their stuff! (Thank you to NetGalley and MacMillan Audio for a copy of this audiobook in exchange for my honest feedback)

  24. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    This was so approachable and fascinating! I usually let palaeontology really intimidate me, but I really enjoyed this. I would go so far to recommend this to young scientists; great for readers ten and up, of all science literacy levels!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    As most children I was fascinated by dinosaurs and that never left me. When I saw this title on NetGalley I decided to take a break from my fiction reading and spend some time with the dinosaurs. I wasn't disappointed. From the first line of the preface I was sure I had made a good choice. "Catastrophe is never convenient. The dinosaurs never expected it. Nor did any of the other organisms from the tiniest bacteria to the great flying reptiles of the air that were thriving on a perfectly normal As most children I was fascinated by dinosaurs and that never left me. When I saw this title on NetGalley I decided to take a break from my fiction reading and spend some time with the dinosaurs. I wasn't disappointed. From the first line of the preface I was sure I had made a good choice. "Catastrophe is never convenient. The dinosaurs never expected it. Nor did any of the other organisms from the tiniest bacteria to the great flying reptiles of the air that were thriving on a perfectly normal Cretaceous day 66 million years ago." Yes, I was hooked and enjoyed every page. It wasn't all dinosaurs to meet in this well written book, it was meeting every other living creature around that day. The day the dinosaurs became extinct and the mammals set the course for us to inhabit the earth. The story of their extinction was presented in a lively, easy going style - nothing dry from a textbook that would have you nodding off mid chapter. My thanks to the publisher St. Martin's Press and to NetGalley for giving me an advance copy in exchange for my honest revew.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Derrick Ranostaj

    I felt like I was watching the Discovery Channel's, "Walking with Dinosaurs" while reading this. It is a great narrative of how the dinosaurs were extinct, after the collision of an asteroid with the earth, and the rise of the mammals. The story is split up into nice, neat chapters showing life before, during, after, then a year, month, and finally MANY years after the impact. The appendix is also just as satisfying, split up into the chapters mentioned above, but with even greater detail. The d I felt like I was watching the Discovery Channel's, "Walking with Dinosaurs" while reading this. It is a great narrative of how the dinosaurs were extinct, after the collision of an asteroid with the earth, and the rise of the mammals. The story is split up into nice, neat chapters showing life before, during, after, then a year, month, and finally MANY years after the impact. The appendix is also just as satisfying, split up into the chapters mentioned above, but with even greater detail. The drawings in the book are a real treat. In a lot of ways, this reminds me of a Neil DeGrasse Tyson book-- you could lend Riley Black's book to anyone and it would be a big hit with paleontologists, geologists, and anyone else that loves dinosaurs. Definitely worth picking up and sharing!

  27. 5 out of 5

    TJN

    The Last Days of the Dinosaurs is a fascinating look at the last great extinction when a massive meteor killed the dinosaurs and most other life on Earth. Black’s writing moves into a fictional look at the animals going about their daily lives just before, during and after asteroid impact. His graphic depiction of the impact on animals as they mostly lost their struggle to survive during this world shattering events moves this book from being informative to story that connects the reader to thes The Last Days of the Dinosaurs is a fascinating look at the last great extinction when a massive meteor killed the dinosaurs and most other life on Earth. Black’s writing moves into a fictional look at the animals going about their daily lives just before, during and after asteroid impact. His graphic depiction of the impact on animals as they mostly lost their struggle to survive during this world shattering events moves this book from being informative to story that connects the reader to these creatures.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kim Cabrera

    The Last Days of the Dinosaurs is a look at the great extinction event that led to the eventual rise of mammals. The dinosaurs ruled the earth until the asteroid struck and caused a worldwide catastrophe. This book tells the story from their perspective. It’s an entertaining way to learn about dinosaurs. I really never did much reading about dinosaurs before, so it was very interesting to me to see what transpired 66 million years ago. The book shows dinosaurs of various species just going about The Last Days of the Dinosaurs is a look at the great extinction event that led to the eventual rise of mammals. The dinosaurs ruled the earth until the asteroid struck and caused a worldwide catastrophe. This book tells the story from their perspective. It’s an entertaining way to learn about dinosaurs. I really never did much reading about dinosaurs before, so it was very interesting to me to see what transpired 66 million years ago. The book shows dinosaurs of various species just going about their day, doing things they did every day, when suddenly, a huge impact changed the planet forever. The story begins on the day of the impact. We watch several animals doing their normal routine. Once the impact happens, the story switches to showing how various species reacted. Some of them had to go to great lengths to survive until conditions improved. Then, we check in again at various intervals until a million years after the impact. It’s a great way to tell the story and allows the author to introduce us to many species along the way. The last part of the book tells how the species were chosen and what their stories are. Some of the archaeologic finds are explained. The author tells us why some species have more depth to their background stories, etc. (i.e. there was more or better fossil evidence for some species.) All in all, a very entertaining look at dinosaurs and what caused their extinction, told in a storytelling format, as if you were sitting around a campfire listening to someone talk. It is not overly heavy on scientific terms, so it is a book accessible to all audiences.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sierra

    Riley Black is quite possibly the most influential name amongst queer aspiring paleontologists, so I was extremely excited to read this book. As a paleontology student, I absolutely love studying mass extinctions, so my expectations couldn't have been higher. I was super impressed by the whole book. I thought the idea of writing from the animals' perspective could've easily gone wrong, but she struck exactly the right tone. The pacing was great (although I expect that that others will care more Riley Black is quite possibly the most influential name amongst queer aspiring paleontologists, so I was extremely excited to read this book. As a paleontology student, I absolutely love studying mass extinctions, so my expectations couldn't have been higher. I was super impressed by the whole book. I thought the idea of writing from the animals' perspective could've easily gone wrong, but she struck exactly the right tone. The pacing was great (although I expect that that others will care more about the dinosaurs themselves and less about what came after), and after reading the appendix, I think she struck the perfect balance between established facts and a little bit of guessing. Also, I loved how readable the appendix was. The conclusion focused more on the author's personal story, which I thought didn't work as well - I'd rather she write a whole memoir, and it didn't fit well into this book. ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kurt

    The pretend nature documentary narrative just doesn't work. Plus, the title is misleading. Most of the book covers the time after the dinosaurs disappeared. Disclaimer: I received this book through Giveaways. The pretend nature documentary narrative just doesn't work. Plus, the title is misleading. Most of the book covers the time after the dinosaurs disappeared. Disclaimer: I received this book through Giveaways.

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