The Paleozoic

See how life unfolded for 300 million years.

What sets "The Paleozoic" apart?

“The Paleozoic” is a series of five accordion books about each period of the Paleozoic. Unlike any other existing prehistoric books, this book series allows readers to see 300 million years of life on Earth as one continuous, 45-foot long illustration. The evolution of life unfolds before their eyes.

Not just art books, but quick guides to each period.

The books simplify the history of each period to four major points, relating to geological or evolutionary events. Whether it is the appearance of skeletons in the Cambrian, to the evolution of the amniote egg in the Carboniferous, each point is written with the layperson in mind.

Blurb

A visual journey through the first 300 million years of complex life on Earth.
Illustrated and written by Estrella Vega, this five-book series depicts the evolution of life through the Paleozoic era. Each book is an accordion that unfolds into a 108-inch long illustration, and all five accordions together create one huge illustration. Readers can literally see the evolution of life on Earth. Not simply an art book, the text goes through the major evolutionary milestones and geological changes of each period in a concise manner.

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Author Bio

Coming from an advertising background, Estrella Vega has had experience with presenting products in a compelling way to capture people’s attention. In 2010, after three years of working on staff, she left her art director position to pursue art but continued to carry the same “philosophy” into her artistic work: present information that people may not be actively seeking compellingly. She is particularly interested in creating educational, scientific content.
Since 2011, she has exhibited at various independent comic festivals such as Mocca, Brooklyn Graphic Arts and Comics Fest, Comic Arts Brooklyn, Alternative Press Expo, Chicago Alternative Komic Expo, Toronto Comic Arts Festival, and the Whitney Comic Festival.
After six years of research, writing, and drawing, Estrella launched a Kickstarter campaign to self-publish her Paleozoic series in 2016. After successfully funding the campaign, her books were published on December 2016.
She is currently doing research and drawing “The Triassic,” which will be the first book in the “Mesozoic” series.

Contact

Estrella Vega
Vegastar Press
email@estrellavega.com
www.estrellavega.com

Book 1:
The Cambrian

Info

ISBN 978-0-9980669-0-5
Author: Estrella Vega
Genre: Educational & Non-Fiction, Evolution, Reference
Publication Date: 12/2016
self-published
Format: hardcover accordion
4.75 inches wide and 6 inches tall
108 inches long accordion

Table of Content

The Cambrian Explosion
The first skeletons
The arms race between predator and prey begins
The substrate revolution

Summary

The beginning of complex life on Earth marks the beginning of predation, which kicks the evolutionary process into high gear.

Sample Text

The first skeletons
Some time before the period, the ocean chemistry changed abruptly, either because of volcanically active mid-ocean ridges or the widespread erosion of rocks. The ocean became saturated with calcium. In response to the toxic environmental change, organisms sequestered the excess calcium in minerals they created. Biomineralization, as this process is called, led organisms to build the first skeletons (or shells).
Apart from making their environment less toxic, having mineralized tissue proved to be useful in several ways: it gave structural support to their bodies, allowing animals to grow bigger and more complex, but perhaps more importantly, it provided protection.
In the Cambrian, a majority of animals had mineralized tissue. This explains the sudden appearance of fossils as these tissues fossilize better than the soft tissues predominant in the prior eon. The sudden increase of animals from different lineages developing “hard parts” independently suggests there was a new selection pressure favoring this trait.

Book 2:
The Ordovician and the Silurian

Info

ISBN 978-0-9980669-1-2
Author: Estrella Vega
Genre: Educational & Non-Fiction, Evolution, Reference
Publication Date: 12/2016
self-published
Format: hardcover accordion
4.75 inches wide and 6 inches tall
108 inches long accordion

Table of Content

The Ordovician radiation
Ice Age
The colonization land
The first jaws

Summary

Invertebrate life dominates the oceans, until the first mass extinction gives the early fish a chance to multiply. Fish develop jaws, and plant life starts to colonize the Earth.

Sample Text

The colonization of land
The Silurian period provides us with the earliest tangible evidence of complex life on land. In prior periods, life on land was mostly composed of microbial colonies. Living on land posed a few challenges to complex life: there was a danger of desiccation, temperatures could shift from extreme heat during the day to extreme cold at night, and it was harder to support weight on land than in water.

Arthropods, invertebrates with jointed legs (scorpions, millipedes, etc.), already had a lot of features to maneuver on land. Their tough exoskeleton initially served for protection underwater, but also prevented water loss and supported their weight on land. Arthropod tracks on land have been found and dated to the late Cambrian, but these tracks suggest arthropods merely made small excursions on land and returned to the water. They didn’t inhabit the land permanently, arguably because there wasn’t much to eat there.
That would soon change when plant-life ventured on land in the late Ordovician. It is often thought the first “plant” life to colonize land were actually lichens. Lichens are composite organisms made up of algae and fungi. The fungi and algae are in a symbiotic relationship: the fungi help the algae absorb minerals from the earth and keep it from drying out whereas the algae create sugars through photosynthesis to feed the fungi. Lichens can survive in extremely inhospitable environments and are therefore pioneer organisms. More importantly, lichens transform stone into fertile soil, and this provided a foundation for other plant life to take root by the Silurian.
The first “real” plants evolved from green algae and were mosses. They were low to the ground and grew close to water. By the late Silurian, more complex plants appeared: the tracheophytes. Unlike mosses, tracheophytes (the majority of plants belong to this group) have vascular tissue to distribute nutrients up and down the plant. Plants could now grow much taller and begin their drastic transformation of land environments in the next period.

Book 3:
The Devonian

Info

ISBN 978-0-9980669-2-9
Author: Estrella Vega
Genre: Educational & Non-Fiction, Evolution, Reference
Publication Date: 12/2016
self-published
Format: hardcover accordion
4.75 inches wide and 6 inches tall
108 inches long accordion

Table of Content

Greening of the Earth
The Age of Fish
Fish crawl onto land
Extinction in the seas

Summary

The Age of Fish sees the appearance of the major fish families, including the bony fish which eventually give rise to the first tetrapod: the first land vertebrate. Forests start to cover the Earth.

Sample Text

Fish crawl onto land
Freshwater habitats posed many challenges to oceanic life forms. Lobe-finned fish, a type of bony fish with thick fins, evolved through the Devonian in response to these challenges becoming the first tetrapods or “animals with four feet.” The initial challenge to living in freshwater habitats was the low salinity of the environment. Salt imbalance is usually fatal, and tetrapods had thick skin to maintain proper levels of salt within their bodies. This thick skin also helped retain moisture when conditions were dry, such as during a drought.
Rivers also were harder to navigate in since water levels are dependent on rainfall, and plant debris can fall in the rivers and obstruct them. As such, tetrapod had limbs as opposed to fins so they could “walk” in shallow waters. The limbs were attached to pelvic and pectoral girdles, which gave the animal more robust structural support. The pectoral girdle, in particular, enabled the animal to move its head independent of the rest of its body. In essence, it gave tetrapods a neck.
The decomposing plant debris and general muddiness of low rivers meant there was less oxygen in the water. Tetrapods had modified their air bladder into lungs and could gulp oxygen from the surface if necessary.
With these anatomical innovations, tetrapods would eventually move onto land, but this monumental step in vertebrate evolution would not have been possible if plants hadn’t paved the way. They provided protection from the sun through shade, and pumped the atmosphere full of oxygen, to the benefit of the tetrapods’ simple lungs. And because plants were a source of food for early arthropods, they, in turn, became food for tetrapods.

Book 4:
The Carboniferous

Info

ISBN 978-0-9980669-3-6
Author: Estrella Vega
Genre: Educational & Non-Fiction, Evolution, Reference
Publication Date: 12/2016
self-published
Format: hardcover accordion
4.75 inches wide and 6 inches tall
108 inches long accordion

Table of Content

The coal-bearing age
Giant insects roam the Earth
The amniote egg came first
Rainforest collapse

Summary

Vast swamps and forests cover the Earth, while gigantic insects fly in the sky. The first egg-laying animals break their dependence on water and make the forest their permanent home.

Sample Text

The amniote egg came first
Meanwhile, the dominant tetrapods were amphibians. Amphibians were dependent on water, not only to keep their skin moist but also for reproduction. They released and fertilized their eggs in water, and the resulting larva was aquatic before its metamorphosis.
Animals who could break this dependence on water and live fully on land would benefit greatly as there was ample insect prey available and a lack of predators. Internal fertilization, where the male releases sperm inside the female, was an important adaptation to living on land, but the amniote egg was the evolutionary leap needed to finalize the transition from a water-living to a land-living animal.
The amniote egg has a shell to protect the embryo from desiccation. It also has a yolk that nourishes the embryo so it can grow within the egg. By the time it hatches, the creature is fully formed and doesn’t need to undergo metamorphosis. Amniotes, as these creatures are called, had other adaptations for living on land, like stronger skeletons and thicker skin. Amniotes soon diverged into two families: the synapsids, and the diapsids.

Book 5:
The Permian

Info

ISBN 978-0-9980669-4-3
Author: Estrella Vega
Genre: Educational & Non-Fiction, Evolution, Reference
Publication Date: 12/2016
self-published
Format: hardcover accordion
4.75 inches wide and 6 inches tall
108 inches long accordion

Table of Content

The supercontinent Pangaea
Amniotes diverge
Mammal-like reptiles
The great dying

Summary

The last period of the Paleozoic sees the mammal-like reptiles take over land environments. Unfortunately, the worst mass extinction in all of history will relegate them to the background in the following era, the Mesozoic.

Sample Text

The supercontinent Pangaea
The supercontinent Pangaea dominated the Permian period. Covering a third of the Earth’s surface and surrounded by the super ocean Panthalassa, it drastically affected weather patterns and ocean flows, creating a dry climate that shifted between extreme heat and cold. Life forms dependent on hot and humid conditions were replaced by ones more tolerant of cold and dryness: amniotes diversified while amphibians declined, and seed plants like conifers, cycads, and gingkoes replaced the giant mosses of the Carboniferous.
Despite life adapting to the changed environment, life on Pangaea was precarious. Vast deserts covered the interior of the continent. The amount of habitable space in both the ocean and on land was reduced. These harsh conditions would push life to the brink by the end of the period.