The last days of the Dinosaurs

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

Riley Black


Riley Black has written a new sort of dinosaur book. It isn't really even about dinosaurs. Instead she begins with "the single worst day in the entire history of life on Earth", when a 7 mile wide asteroid traveling at 45,000 mph slammed into the Yucatan Peninsula area. Approximately 80% of all living species on Earth, including dinosaurs, perished as a result. Black chronicles the recovery of the planet from that point to the evolution of mammals over a million years later. Each chapter of the book is set at Hell Creek, Montana, site of many fossil discoveries, moving through time at that scene from before the impact through impact, first hour, first day, first month, first year, first 100 years, first thousand years, first hundred thousand years, first million years. Each chapter features a different life form found in the area and time. 

Despite being a lifelong lover of dinosaurs, Black believes that without this extinction event mammals would never have evolved as they did and we humans would not exist in our current form. This is less a book about a disaster than it is a book about the resilience of life. "Life can be gravely injured. Individually, or even as a species, lives end. Life can be constrained, cut back, forced into uncomfortable shapes, and stressed so gravely that the trauma is visible in fossil beds as surely as the tissues of a living animal. But life is still here. Vibrant, resilient, overwhelming life. Life is not static. It is responsive." Other reviewers have categorized "The Last Days of the Dinosaurs" as pop science but backed up by hard facts. An enjoyable read.