Evolution of the Vertebrates

Evolution of the Vertebrates

Infobox Book
name = Colbert's Evolution of the Vertebrates

image_caption = 5th Edition Book Cover
author = Edwin H. Colbert, Michael Morales, Eli C. Minkoff,
language = English, Japanese
subject = Vertebrate Evolution
publisher = Wiley-Liss
pub_date = December 15, 2001
pages = 576
isbn = 0-471-38461-5

Evolution of the Vertebrates, subtitled "A History of the Backboned Animals Through Time" is a basic paleontology textbook by Edwin H. Colbert, published by John Wiley & Sons.


The first and second editions (1955 and 1969) provide an overview of the entire range of vertebrate evolution, and are illustrated by the distinctive drawings of "Lois Darling". The style of writing is very light and readable, and technical concepts kept to a minimum. In the book vertebrate evolution is studied utilizing comparative anatomy & functional morphology of existing vertebrates, and fossil records. The book is "considered a classic" (New York Times, 25 November 2001) and was used very frequently as a college-level text on the subjects of basic paleontology and vertebrate evolution.

These editions predate the cladistic revolution and so contain a number of chapters and sections dedicated to paraphyletic taxa (Labyrinthodonts, Thecodonts, Condylarths, etc) which nevertheless constituted an important part of the understanding of the time.

Latest Publishing

The latest edition, the "fifth" edition, was cowritten with Michael Morales and Eli C. Minkoff, and has been revised to incorporate recent discoveries and current developments in the field of vertebrate evolution. This new addition includes entirely new sections. Some examples of these are conodonts, primates, and dinosaurs. Some new topics that the fifth edition discuss are:

*Analysis of morphological and molecular data
*Early ruling reptiles
*Basic adaptation of ungulates
*Early diversification of vertebrates
*The evolution of dinosaurs
*The origin of mammals

The fifth edition has generally received praise from both professors and students using this textbook on the college level. It has, however, received mild criticism for its out-of-date material and inability to keep up with the latest developments in geological palentology. Some claim that Dr. Eli C. Minkoff, a biologist who is not a vertebrate paleontologist, clearly has not kept up with the important developments that have occurred in the past decades in the fields of vertebrate and geological palentology. Others however argue that the broad scope of the edits in the fifth edition make up for any generalizations pertaining to specific details related to geological palentology.


* Edwin H. Colbert, (1969), "Evolution of the Vertebrates", John Wiley & Sons (2nd ed.)
* Edwin H. Colbert, Michael Morales, Eli C. Minkoff, 2001 "Colbert's Evolution of the Vertebrates: A History of the Backboned Animals Through Time", 5th Edition, Wiley, ISBN 0-471-38461-5
* [http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0471384615,descCd-description.html Publisher's Website and Book Overview]

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