The Complete Guide to Prehistoric Life

The Complete Guide to Prehistoric Life
The Complete Guide to Prehistoric Life  
Complete guide to prehistoric life.jpg
Author(s) Tim Haines
Paul Chambers
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre(s) Reference work
Publisher Firefly Books
Publication date 2006
Pages 216 pages
ISBN 1554071259
OCLC Number 60834094

The Complete Guide to Prehistoric Life is an encyclopedia featuring 111 of the prehistoric animals from the Walking With... series, as well as an additional one (Homo floresiensis). It was published in 2006 by Firefly Books, and written by Tim Haines with Paul Chambers. It accompanies all programs in the Walking with... series except Walking with Cavemen, Prehistoric Park and Primeval.



The book is divided into four sections other than the Index and Glossary, the Paleozoic, the Mesozoic, the Cenozoic, and the Timeline or the Tree of Life. The previous three sections contain brief summaries of the time periods featured, and detailed entries for the featured animals. The lists of creatures are in the order they are shown in the book.

Cambrian (543 − 490 Million Years Ago)

Ordovician (490 − 443 Million Years Ago)

Silurian (443 − 417 Million Years Ago)

Devonian (417 − 354 Million Years Ago)

Carboniferous (354 − 290 Million Years Ago)

Permian (290 − 248 Million Years Ago)

Triassic (248 − 206 Million Years Ago)

Jurassic (206 − 144 Million Years Ago)

Cretaceous (144 − 65 Million Years Ago)

Paleocene (65 − 55 Million Years Ago)

Eocene (55 − 34 Million Years Ago)

Oligocene (34 − 24 Million Years Ago)

Miocene (24 − 5 Million Years Ago)

Pliocene (5 − 1.8 Million Years Ago)

Pleistocene (1.8 − 0.01 Million Years Ago)

Mentioned creatures

Scientific errors

  • On page 209, on the family tree, Pteranodon is incorrectly placed in the crocodiles branch.
  • Also in the family tree, Nothosaurus is placed on a separate branch from the one labeled nothosaurs.
  • In the family tree, it is said that the mesonychians were the ancestors of the whales. However, this theory has been discarded in favor of one where cetaceans and artiodactyls share a common ancestor.
  • The family tree also claims that the Carnivora descended from the creodonts. However, this is a grossly outdated theory. Rather, the carnivores more likely descended from the tree-dwelling miacids.
  • The family tree shows that the apes first appeared in the Oligocene, while the oldest known ape, Proconsul, dates back to the later Miocene.
  • Cameroceras is repeatedly misspelled as "Cameraceras". This is probably just an accident.
  • On page 46, it is said that turtles and tortoises may have descended from Scutosaurus. However, chelonians are now thought to be more closely related to modern reptiles than to pareiasaurs.
  • Coelophysis is repeatedly misclassified as a coelurosaur, while it was actually a much more primitive coelophysid.
  • On page 64, it is said that nothosaurs laid eggs. However, it is now generally agreed that they gave live birth like their descendants, the plesiosaurs and pliosaurs.
  • On page 65, Cymbospondylus is dubbed the largest ichthyosaur of all time. In fact, the creature was not even half the size of Shonisaurus, which is also the largest known marine reptile. Interestingly, the book Chased by Sea Monsters states that the largest ichthyosaur is either Shonisaurus or an undescribed genus.
  • On page 90, Eustreptospondylus and Megalosaurus are said to be carnosaurs, while they are closer relatives of the spinosaurs.
  • On page 112, Leaellynasaura is said to be an ornithopod. However, it may have been a more primitive ornithischian that does not fit in any of the known families.
  • On page 127, it is said that there is no evidence for Velociraptor having feathers. However, quill knobs have been found in association with the creature's skeleton, showing that its arms at least were feathered. However, this discovery was made after the book was published.
  • On page 128, Protoceratops is incorrectly identified as an ornithopod, while it's actually a ceratopsian.
  • On page 137, it is said that Tyrannosaurus means "terrible reptile". However, this is what the term dinosaur means. Tyrannosaurus means "tyrant reptile".
  • On page 137, it is said that Tyrannosaurus lived from 75 to 65 million years ago. However, the oldest fossils that can be confidently assigned to this genus date back only 68.5 million years ago.
  • On page 138, it is said that Torosaurus means "bull reptile". However, this is a common misconception. It actually means "perforated reptile".
  • On page 188, Smilodon is said to have died out 100,000 years ago. However, it is known to have survived until 11,000 years ago.
  • On page 190, the closest living relative to Phorusrhacos is said to be the secretary bird. That would actually be the seriema bird.
  • On page 196, Megaloceros is said to reach antlerspans up to 3 metres (10 feet) while, in fact, specimens with 3.6 metres (12 feet) are not uncommon.
  • On page 197, the cave lion is depicted with a much shorter tail than it had in real life.
  • On page 201, it is said that a population of pygmy mammoths survived on an island off the east coast of Russia until about 6,000 years ago. In fact, this time estimate is only accurate about the population on the Alaskan St. Paul Island than the real last sanctuary, the Wrangel Island, where the most recent remains are as young as 3,700 years old.
  • The size comparison images of some animals are erroneous, such as Meganeura, Ornitholestes (both too big), Megatherium and Megaloceros (both too small). Also, the silhouette used for Tarbosaurus (actually a stock image that has been used in older books) depicts the animal standing in a kangaroo-like manner, instead with its spine parallel to the ground. Also, an old stock image of Eryops was used for the size comparison model for Proterogyrinus, although Eryops had a more rounded skull than Proterogyrinus. Lastly, the silhouette of the Indricotherium is actually that of a calf, as you can tell by its proportions.

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