In his latest book, The Rise and Reign of the Mammals, most chapters begin with a semi-fictional story of a fossil critter in an archaic landscape. It’s a chronicle of competition, skeletal changes, disaster species, and new life.
Steve: If aliens came down, they might be more weird and wacky than any fossil that we know of. There might be aliens out there that look like dinosaurs, and if you showed them the t-rex they might be like, “Oh yeah!”.
I would go for something like a t-rex or a brontosaurus. Those are the ones that, for me, evoke the most awe and majesty and get my mind racing. They are so unusual and weird compared to anything alive today. They’re kind of the most alien dinosaurs. I would show those to anybody.
Humans might have the only minds in the universe that can understand fossils. It’s a knowledge that connects us to every other living thing, and none of them can grasp the idea.
African slaves were the first people to find and accurately identify North American fossils along the Stono River in South Carolina in 1725. Specimens of mammoth teeth, which resembled elephants they’d seen in Africa, ended up in collections like Thomas Jefferson’s at Monticello. 2