Have you ever wondered about your pet's prehistoric relatives? Before cats, dogs and birds became our companions, they had wild ancestors that were fierce and huge.
In the new book "Prehistoric Pets" (Candlewick Press, 2021), to be released Tuesday (Sept. 7) in the U.S., paleontologist Dean Lomax dives into the family trees of our most beloved pets and finds the bizarre beasts that preceded them.
But don't take our word for it! Join Live Science at 12:30 p.m. EDT (9:30 a.m. PDT) on Tuesday for a live conversation with Lomax and a chance to win a free copy of "Prehistoric Pets." Once our interview begins, you'll be able to find the livestream on our Facebook, Twitter or YouTube pages, where you can also ask Lomax questions about ancient animals.
To enter to win a free copy of "Prehistoric Pets," wait for our trivia question and then correctly answer it in the Facebook comments. We'll randomly pick three winners. (See the terms and conditions below).
Lomax, a paleontologist and visiting scientist at the University of Manchester in England, remembers finding his first fossil at age 8: a piece of 350 million-year-old fossilized coral in Yorkshire, in the United Kingdom. Since then, he's traveled the world, digging up the remains of ancient animals. He even helped discover and scientifically describe five new species of ichthyosaur, a prehistoric marine reptile that resembled modern-day dolphins. One of them, Ichthyosaurus anningae, is named in honor of Mary Anning, the first female paleontologist and the person who found the first complete ichthyosaur skeleton on record.
Lomax's new book doesn't include an ichthyosaurus, but he does dive into the family trees of guinea pigs, birds, snakes, cats, fish, dogs and horses. Lomax gives a smattering of facts about creatures from both modern and prehistoric times.
For instance, the guinea pig is a rodent that has a pair of ever-growing incisors, meaning they have to constantly gnaw on things to wear down these teeth. A much earlier and much bigger rodent, the prehistoric Josephoartigasia, was an extinct giant that lived between 4 million and 2 million years ago in what is now Uruguay. It too had spectacular tusk-like teeth that enabled it to grind plants and fruits. And Palaeocastor, a prehistoric burrowing beaver, used its incisors to dig corkscrew-shaped burrows when it lived in North America 20 million years ago.
"You might be surprised to know that a guinea pig's prehistoric relative looked very different to the fluffy pet we're familiar with," Lomax writes in the book. "By looking at fossils — the remains of animals preserved in rock — we're able to trace our pets back to animals that lived millions of years ago."
One of the best parts of "Prehistoric Pets," illustrated by Mike Love, are the colorful and amazing pop-ups of the ancient animals. This includes the feathered Velociraptor (a relative of today's parakeets) and the 45-foot-long (14 meters) Titanoboa, a fearsome serpent that lived about 60 million years ago in what is now Colombia.
This book targets 5 to 9 year olds, but kids (and adults) of any age will enjoy seeing familiar animals (like seahorses and zebras) and reading about their ancient relatives, such as the Jurassic period Leedsichthys, the largest ray-finned fish on record, and Epicyon, a grizzly bear-size canid that lived in North American about 12 million years ago.
In other words, "have you ever wondered what your pet's great, great, great, great, GREAT, grandparents looked like?" Lomax asks in the book. You'll have to read it to find out.
"Prehistoric Pets" giveaway
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Open to legal residents of 50 U.S & D.C., 18 or older. Employees, agents, officers & directors of Future US, Inc ("Sponsor"), its parent, subsidiaries, affiliates & advertising & promotion agencies (collectively with Facebook, Inc., "Released Parties") & members of their immediate family (spouse, parent, children, siblings & their respective spouses, regardless of where they reside) & persons living in the same household, whether or not related, are not eligible. Void where prohibited. Subject to all applicable federal, state & local laws.
HOW TO ENTER: At any time between 12:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021, and 12:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021 (the "Entry Period"), visit the Live Science page on Facebook ("Event Page"), find the post about the giveaway and answer the trivia question asked during the interview of Dean Lomax, author of "Prehistoric Pets" ("Event") via a comment to the post. If, for whatever reason, the Event is cancelled or postponed, this giveaway will not occur. Entries generated by script, macro or other automated means or by any means that subvert the entry process are void. Limit one (1) entry per person/Facebook ID. Multiple entries will be void. Entries become the sole property of Sponsor. Entry must not be offensive or inappropriate, as determined by Sponsor in its sole discretion. Sponsor reserves the right to disqualify any entry and remove any comment that it determines, in its sole discretion, is not in compliance with these Official Rules or is otherwise not in keeping with Sponsor's image.
WINNER DETERMINATION: Three winners will be randomly selected from the eligible individuals who posted correct answers to the trivia question, as determined by Sponsor in its sole discretion, during the Entry Period. If, by the end of the Entry Period, no eligible comments are provided, the prize will not be awarded. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received.
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Prize: A copy of "Prehistoric Pets" (3 prizes available). Approximate Retail Value: $17.99. Total Prize is awarded "as is" with no warranty or guarantee, either express or implied. Winner is responsible for all federal, state & local taxes. Winner may not substitute, assign or transfer prize, but Sponsor reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to substitute prize (or portion thereof) with one of comparable or greater value. Prize cannot be redeemed for cash. All prize details are at Sponsor's sole discretion.
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Originally published on Live Science.
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Laura is the archaeology and Life's Little Mysteries editor at Live Science. She also reports on general science, including paleontology. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Scholastic, Popular Science and Spectrum, a site on autism research. She has won multiple awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association for her reporting at a weekly newspaper near Seattle. Laura holds a bachelor's degree in English literature and psychology from Washington University in St. Louis and a master's degree in science writing from NYU.