Silurian Journey

While I decided in my review of Into The Ordovician that the Silurian Period had at least marginally more pop-culture appreciation than the preceding geologic period, that doesn’t mean that it has found particularly widely recognition among the average Joe, either. So it is that PRI has once again decided to become the champions of an under-appreciated topic in paleontology with a sequel appropriately titled Silurian Journey.

It is once again authored by Andrielle Swaby & Jonathan Hendricks, and illustrated by Alana McGillis, who has practically become the house artist for PRI’s youth-oriented books ever since illustrating the widely-praised Daring to Dig, along with promotional art for its accompanying exhibit at the Museum of the Earth.

While eurypterids lived through several periods of the Paleozoic, the Silurian certainly had a high diversity of them.

As with the previous book, Silurian Journey is split into two halves: one with cartoon depictions of the relevant fauna and flora, and the other with photographs of actual fossils and the scientists who study them. The cartoon half starts off with a description of the Silurian as both a time period and a geologic layer, and includes a comic that whimsically depicts historical disagreement between Robert Murchison and Adam Sedgwick over the lower boundary of the Silurian, a dispute Charles Lapworth solved by creating a new division, the Ordovician.

The book compares eurypterids to modern horseshoe crabs several times, so I had to bring it along to our local aquarium for some photos!

Four whole pages of this half of the book are devoted to the fearsome sea scorpions, or eurypterids. These creatures had their heyday in the Silurian, and certainly deserve their prominent representation here. The book gives a good overview of what eurypterids were like, showing several different forms with different lifestyles, from the spindly sieve-like arms of Mixopterus to the more traditional-looking but no less imposing claws of Pterygotus. I’m surprised however that the authors neglected to discuss Eurypterus itself either here or in the fossil section, though. After all, over 90% of all known eurypterid fossils belong to this mid-sized (2 foot long!) genus, and that’s a fun fact that deserves greater attention!

The fossil section shows off a bunch of eurypterids one more time, including Eurypterus itself, though it still doesn’t mention its unique claim to fame.

After discussing several more groups of plants and animals, the book shows us some of the first creatures to crawl their way on to land. The famous Devonian fish Tiktaalik hogs all the spotlight for its transition to terrestrial environments, but this achievement was only possible in the first place because plants and arthropods had spent the entire preceding Silurian period colonizing and transforming the land. They should really get the credit for making dry land suitable for the larger animals that eventually followed.

Near the end, the authors introduce us to four individuals who have done significant work on Silurian fossils: Donald Mikulic, Mikaela Pulsipher, James Lamsdell, and Patricia Coorough Burke. While most are new to me, I’m already familiar with James Lamsdell as one of the triumvirate hosts of the Palaeo After Dark podcast, a sort of audio “book club” where the hosts discuss interesting paleontological research papers. It may sound very well-to-do, but it’s actually a lot of good, rowdy fun once they really get going, although I would not recommend it to the target audience of this book! (Check out my Media Recommendations tab for more.)

Before I wrap up, I should mention PRI’s plush toys as well! Into The Ordovician was released alongside a new orthocone plush, though their eurypterid plush toys appear to be sold out at the moment. Perchance to dream that this new book will convince them to re-release the enormous limited-run eurypterid body pillow they once offered…

While I don’t have any recommendations that go into quite the same level of detail about the Silurian as this one, both Ocean Renegades! and When Fish Got Feet, Bugs Were Big, and Dinos Dawned have sections on the Silurian Period as part of their overviews of the Paleozoic Era, and they do include some information not mentioned here. The band Brighter Lights, Thicker Glasses actually had a song about the Silurian, but they sadly seem to have deleted their YouTube account, leaving me with nothing to link to for this article. I managed to secure a download of it at some point though, so I might be able to share it with any interested parties.

As for the subject of today’s review, Silurian Journey is another quality children’s book from PRI, and the perfect companion to its predecessor, Into The Ordovician. I highly recommend both books, especially for children who are interested in life beyond the time of the dinosaurs. With its whimsical illustrations and its approachable writing, I heartily give Silurian Journey my Dino Dad Stomp of Approval!

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