Nature’s Time Capsules – A Review of Locked in Time

A Review of Dr Dean Lomax’s Locked in Time by Nathan Kitto

It’s only right to be surrounded by dinosaurs when reading about them. © Nathan Kitto.

Have you ever wondered what fossilised flatulence looks like or how it’s even possible for the passing of wind to be recorded and preserved for millions of years? Did you ever wonder about epic battles between extinct creatures and how similar they are to animals we can see fighting today? Maybe you’ve even thought about how a predator that can be vicious and bloodthirsty can provide great parental care? Well, in Locked in Time you will learn about remarkable stories like these and many more in a compilation of 50 short essays describing remarkable events that happened millions of years ago, stretching as far back as the Cambrian Period.

The book is broken down into five main topics covering the main parts of life – Sex; Parental Care and Communities; Moving and Making Homes; Fighting, Biting and Feeding; and Unusual Happenings. Each chapter contains magnificent fossils which all tell interesting stories of the behaviour and life of a particular group of animals and occasionally how different species co-existed. Every topic gets you thinking about each species of animal and makes you want to learn more about them. When we look at fossils, whether in a book or museum, we usually just look at bones or tracks and conjure an image of the creature’s appearance. But how often do we look at the fossils and think about their lives? How they grew, fed, fought, travelled, mated, how they struggled and conquered all those years ago? This book changed my perspective and got me asking different questions from the usual – what does it look like? It’s funny to imagine these extinct animals had to endure similar situations as we and other animals go through today.

Dean R. Lomax does an excellent job with his story telling. I have found that some texts on palaeontology can easily be a bit of a drag and sometimes too complex for some fossil enthusiasts, but Dean keeps every story interesting by bringing them to life with his language, humour and his expert knowledge and research skills. The book is a very easy read and made accessible enough for experts and non-experts of all ages to enjoy. Each story is accompanied by images of the chosen fossils and are described clearly, making you want to examine them for yourself. However, the book would not be the same without the help of world-renowned illustrator Bob Nicholls. His wonderfully detailed creations of different creatures and environments vividly paints a picture in your mind, giving you a better understanding of what these extinct animals looked like, and how they behaved and lived. I think I would have liked the images to be in colour, but that is the only issue I had with the book, and it’s quite a miniscule one!

This is a very entertaining book as well as being educational, and can be easily picked up for a quick read. You’ll come across a fascinating collection of animals from huge sauropods, to gnarly fish, tiny insects and furry mammals, each with a vibrant story to tell. With great detective work and storytelling by Dean Lomax and detailed scene building by Bob Nicholls, together they created an exceptional book that I would highly recommend to anyone with an interest in fossils and the history of life on earth.

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