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Short Synopsis
In Beasts Before Us, paleontologist Elsa Panciroli charts the emergence of the mammal lineage, Synapsida, beginning at their murky split from the reptiles in the Carboniferous period, over three-hundred million years ago.

Full Synopsis
For most of us, the story of mammal evolution starts after the asteroid impact that killed the dinosaurs, but over the last twenty years scientists have uncovered new fossils and used new technologies that have upended this story.

In Beasts Before Us, paleontologist Elsa Panciroli charts the emergence of the mammal lineage, Synapsida, beginning at their murky split from the reptiles in the Carboniferous period, over three-hundred million years ago. They made the world theirs long before the rise of dinosaurs.

Elsa crisscrosses the globe to explore the sites where discoveries are being made and meet the people who make them. In Scotland, she traverses the desert dunes of prehistoric Moray, where quarry workers unearthed the footprints of Permian creatures from before the time of dinosaurs. In South Africa, she introduces us to animals that gave scientists the first hints that our furry kin evolved from a lineage of egg-laying burrowers. In China, new, complete fossilized skeletons reveal mammals that were gliders, shovel-pawed Jurassic moles, and flat-tailed swimmers.

This book radically reframes the narrative of our mammalian ancestors and provides a counterpoint to the stereotypes of mighty dinosaur overlords and cowering little mammals. It turns out the earliest mammals weren't just precursors, they were pioneers.

Beasts Before Us

The Untold Story of Mammal Origins and Evolution

Author Elsa Panciroli

Narrated by Ruth Urquhart

Publication date Sep 28, 2021

Running time 11 hrs

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