Paleontological Society of Austin
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James W. Westgate
Striking a balance between the popular and the technical is a difficult feat in science writing, but Dr. James W. Westgate, associate professor of geology at Lamar University, has found that pleasant middle ground in After the Dinosaurs: A Texas Tropical Paradise Recovered at Lake Casa Blanca.
Westgate, who also is a research associate at the Vertebrate Paleontology Laboratory, Texas Memorial Museum, University of Texas at Austin, has authored a brief but informative and entertaining description of a middle Eocene site at Lake Casa Blanca International State Park near Laredo.
Westgate and his students have recovered fossils of 59 species of vertebrates (including 29 species of mammals), ranging from micro-opossums and tarsiers through four-toed horses (Epihippus) and aquatic rhinos (Amynodon); reptiles (including the 20-foot long "sea snake" Pterospenus schucherti), and various marine species (sharks and rays).
The site also has yielded fossil fruits and the only evidence of Nypa-related mangroves on the North American continent, along with new species of mammals, as well as the first North American occurrences some fish and turtle species known before only from European deposits.
Drawings by artist and earth science graduate Abby Salazar, along with maps, photographs and line drawings, illustrate not only specimens recovered but also what the tropical coastal area in Texas llooked like 42 million years ago.
Westgate reports the Lake Casa Blanca is the only fossil community of its kind known from the North American coastal plain from 66 million to 23 millions ago and extending more than 2,000 miles from northeastern Mexico to New Jersey.
Among the useful features for the reader is a list of fossil species with common and scientific names, along with a list for "additional reading," including a number of more technical articles by Westgate.
All in all, the volume is a pleasure-and should prove informative to
the general public and fossil enthusiasts (and will whet the appetite
of the latter for expanded reports from Westgate).
A portion of the proceeds of books purchased from Amazon.com will benefit the Society.
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