Dinosaurs are such a part of the cultural mainstream that most people, I would imagine, don''t even realize how speculative our depictions of even "well known" varieties are. I had some inkling: as a kid, I lost interest in studying dinosaurs when the news came out that...
Dinosaurs are such a part of the cultural mainstream that most people, I would imagine, don''t even realize how speculative our depictions of even "well known" varieties are. I had some inkling: as a kid, I lost interest in studying dinosaurs when the news came out that Brontosaurus was being renamed Apatasaurus (going off memory, but I think that''s the phonetic name, if not exactly the spelling) because the all-knowing scientists I idolized had put the wrong skull on the Brontosaurus skeleton. As a WAY too serious kid determined to know what was "real" and what wasn''t, I reasoned that if we couldn''t even be sure that one of the most famous dinos was "real", then it was possible nearly everything I knew about dinos might turn out to be bunk one day.
If my defeatist reaction was juvenile my skepticism was richly warranted, as this book illustrates in a thought-provoking and often hilarious way. It provides alternative reconstructions of extinct creatures--many but not all being dinosaurs--that are at least as plausible as the stereotypical portrayals of muscular lizards trying to chomp, or avoid being chomped, that we''re all familiar with.
In many cases the depictions are actually much more plausible, which was my favorite feature of the book. Dinos are good for business, and Dinos!...in ACTION! are better yet, to the point that it''s difficult to imagine them rolling happily in the mud like a pig, or without colorful scales and menacing claws, because nearly all depictions of them focus on the flamboyant, the bizarre, and of course, the ACTION!, no matter how speculative. But they were animals, and so surely they looked and behaved more like animals today than we usually imagine they did.
Or maybe not. But again, the alternative depictions in this book are at least as plausible and usually more so; and the text gives solidly scientific justifications without getting too dense or detailed. Equally enjoyable was the second part of the book, illustrations how modern animals might be reconstructed by paleontologists far in the future, based upon the parts of the animals'' bodies likely to be be preserved and potentially dug up as fossils. It''s funny and a bit unsettling, and I''ll say no more to avoid spoiling anything.
I really enjoyed this book, which is part of why I gave it four and not five stars: even at the reasonable price of $8-10, I want a book to have more than 30 or 40 minutes material in it. Yes, I understand that the illustrations are the focus but I wanted to see more of those, even if it meant not all could be as well done artistically, or that some had to have abbreviated text accompanying them. Other people, perhaps, will find the amount of material satisfactory, but like the carnivorous dinos depicted in most pictures, books, movies, etc., all I do is consume and I''m never satisfied...