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Home > Catalogue > Evolutionary Catastrophes
Evolutionary Catastrophes


  • 21 b/w illus.
  • Page extent: 188 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.455 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 576.8/4
  • Dewey version: 21
  • LC Classification: QE506 .C7513 1999
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Catastrophes (Geology)
    • Extinction (Biology)

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9780521583923 | ISBN-10: 0521583926)

  • Also available in Paperback
  • Published August 1999

Replaced by 9780521891189

 (Stock level updated: 02:10 GMT, 30 November 2015)


Why did the dinosaurs and two-thirds of all living species vanish from the face of the Earth sixty-five million years ago? Throughout the history of life a small number of catastrophic events have caused mass extinction, and changed the path of evolution forever. Two main theories have emerged to account for these dramatic events: asteroid impact, and massive volcanic eruptions, both leading to nuclear-like winter. In recent years, the impact hypothesis has gained precedence, but Vincent Courtillot suggests that cataclysmic volcanic activity can be linked not only to the K-T mass extinction, but to most of the main mass extinction events in the history of the earth. Courtillot's book, first published in 1999, debunks some of the myths surrounding one of the most controversial arguments in science. This story will fascinate everyone interested in the history of life and death on our planet.

• Topic at the forefront of the public's imagination: natural disaster, mass extinction, dinosaurs, asteroid impact, volcanic eruption, evolution and life on earth • Very readable indeed: difficult to put down • Well known author at the centre of the debate on mass extinction


Foreword Claude Allège; Preface; Preface to the English translation; 1. Mass extinctions; 2. An asteroid impact; 3. From the roof of the world to the Deccan traps; 4. The volcanic scenario; 5. Plumes and hotspots; 6. A remarkable correlation; 7. Nemesis or Shiva?; 8. Chicxulub; 9. Controversy and coincidence; 10. Improbable catastrophes and the flukes of evolution; Index.


'… a beautifully written little book that, once picked up, is impossible to put down.' Geoscientist

' … watch this space and read this book.' Bob White, New Scientist

'The book is very readable and provides a clear and concise picture for anyone interested in the subject. The text is well written and supported by clear footnotes where necessary and a comprehensive glossary … [I] recommend this book for those at any stage in their studies or knowledge. It is written for a general audience but should not be missed by professionals.' Mike Hermolle, Open University Geological Society Journal

'[Vincent Coutillot] has done a superb job! A balanced and fair treatment of a complex of information, misinformation, and perhaps even disinformation. Although written for a general audience, this book should be obligatory reading for all professionals involved in the controversies surrounding the causes of mass extinction. Even the most committed will find their outlook broadened.' David M. Raup, Formerly Professor of Paleontology, University of Chicago, and author of Extinction, Bad Genes or Bad Luck? (Norton, 1991)

Praise for the original French edition: 'A real scientific thriller … Vincent Courtillot brilliantly presents the stormy genesis of an original, unifying theory on the origin of the great biological extinctions which have marked the history of the earth.' Pascal Tassy, La Recherche

Praise for the original French edition: '… a vividly written book which … clarifies many points that have been shrouded in darkness up until now'. French Edition of Scientific American

Praise for the original French edition: '… a science book and an adventure book'. Ciel et Espace

Praise for the original French edition: 'To be read by all paleontology, geology and ecology enthusiasts.' Sciences et Avenir

'Courtillot makes an excellent case for other mass extinctions being almost certainly related to cataclysmic volcanism. A well-written and well-reasoned book, essential for any library.' M. A. Wilson, Choice

'It is rare to find a first-rate geoscientist who can write a first-rate popular book on science, but Professor Courtillot is one such … a lively exposition of the idea that mantle processes cause major stress to ecosystems. It is beautifully written … The pace is fast, but the data well explained and authoritatively considered … Anyone with an interest in mass extinctions or in the episodic and catastrophic nature of teh Earth's internal processes should rush out and read this book. It is a rewarding experience.' Susan Rigby, University of Edinburgh

'The description of how the conclusions were reached and confronted with views of the extraterrestrial party is vivid and instructive to non-geophysicists (I am among them).' Journal of Sedimentary Research

'Read and enjoy this book … It represents a pleasantly argued counterpoint to the rather shrill and abrasively dismissive 'impacticist' views.' David Norman, The Times Higher Education Supplement

'… covers the topic brilliantly. You can easily read Evolutionary Catastrophes in one weekend, particularly because uou will not want to put it down.' Willis Hames, Auburn University

' … well-argued taste of the debate for the general reader.' Nature

'… professionals … will read it with the same pleasure as non-specialists.' Zentralblatt fur Geologie und Palaontologie


Claude Allège

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