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The Great Dinosaur Discoveries [Hardcover]

Darren Naish (Author)
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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The Great Dinosaur Discoveries + Prehistoric Life: The Definitive Visual History of Life on Earth + The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs (Princeton Field Guides)
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Editorial Reviews


"Photographs of fossils and illustrations of what dinosaurs might have looked like in the flesh help tell the story."--Earth Magazine

"Reading this book will most definitely whet your appetite for donning your hiking boots, grabbing your rock hammer, and joining a dinosaur hunting expedition!"--American Paleontologist

Product Description

This elegantly illustrated volume is a journey through more than two centuries of remarkable discovery. Books on dinosaurs are usually arranged by classification or epoch, but this unique work tells the story chronologically, in order of the key finds that shaped our understanding and brought these creatures to life for the public. From the fragmentary remains of giant extinct animals found in the early 1800s to the dinosaur wars in the American West to the amazing near-complete skeletons found around the world today, Darren Naish tells how these discoveries have led not only to the recognition of new species and whole new groups, but also to new theories of evolutionary history. Along the way, we encounter dinosaurs both familiar and obscure-including Tyrannosaurus rex, the giant sauropods, and most recently, the feathered dinosaurs of China. As he describes these significant finds, Naish explains in clear, accessible language, how our ideas about dinosaur appearance, biology, and behavior have developed and changed over time, and what the state of knowledge is today.
• Discusses each major dinosaur group
• Illuminates the human side of fossil discoveries by describing explorers, scientists, and artists
• Beautifully designed pages feature extensive captions, engaging text, and sidebars throughout on select topics of interest
• Almost 200 illustrations include historical and contemporary photographs, art works, drawings, and maps

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 1 edition (October 21, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520259750
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520259751
  • Product Dimensions: 11.2 x 8.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #445,513 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Darren Naish
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Visit Amazon's Darren Naish Page


Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful, wonderful book, even for laypeople, October 1, 2009
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This review is from: The Great Dinosaur Discoveries (Hardcover)
I have had a lifelong interest in extinct creatures, especially dinosaurs, and have followed Darren Naish's blog for several years. This book looked interesting, and I purchased it without realizing how utterly addicting this book is. It has the visual quality of a coffee table book (but not the enormous size) and the contents of a scientific book written with the layperson (that is to say, a non-biologist or paleontologist) in mind. It is a fascinating look at dinosaurs from a historical perspective, meaning that Dr. Naish begins with the first dinosaur discoveries and discusses what theories people had about the creatures they were discovering and describing.

The layouts are interesting and visually attractive to the eye, and the content is conveniently partitioned for easy comprehension. Dr. Naish also goes out of his way to discuss misconceptions or little-known facts in order to help clarify what we currently believe about the topics covered.

This is a fantastic read and a terrific buy for anyone who has more than the faintest interest in dinosaurs.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gorgeous Dinosaur Book with a Difference, March 12, 2010
R. Hardy "Rob Hardy" (Columbus, Mississippi USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Great Dinosaur Discoveries (Hardcover)
There are plenty of books about dinosaurs. Because the creatures fascinate so many people, and not just little boys, many of these books are aimed at the public, and feature pictures of the fantastic beasts in their many forms. _The Great Dinosaur Discoveries_ (University of California Press) by Darren Naish is a little like this, but pay attention to the title; there are dinosaurs aplenty here, and lots of color photographs and artists' reconstructions of the ancient animals, but the history of discovering and of understanding what the fossils had to tell us is the theme of this dinosaur book. It's a fine theme, and Naish, who has previously written a more conventional encyclopedia of dinosaurs, tells it from the first discovery of mysterious gigantic bones to the controversies that power dinosaur research today. The story is chronological, with each two-page spread devoted to a particular dinosaur, discovery, or concept. The chapters are tied with a timeline, but not the typical one that shows Precambrian, Cambrian, Jurassic, and other ancient eras (although there is one of those in the introduction). Rather, there is a timeline that starts with the naming of the first dinosaur in 1824, right through the ones named in the 21st century. It is a human story, complete with misunderstandings and competition that somehow got us to our current concepts of what dinosaurs were and why they were important.

The earliest discoveries of fossils were where the naturalists already were, in England in the 1820s. The version of the dinosaurs from these original fossils makes them look like hippopotami with alligator teeth. It is not surprising that with just a few specimens, there would be many mistakes in the beginning. One of the themes here is that the range of exploration has become worldwide. It is not surprising that dinosaurs should be found all over the world; when dinosaurs first appeared (Late Triassic, about 200 million years ago), the land masses of the Earth were all together in one single supercontinent. From the discoveries made in the quarries and fields of England, researchers were eventually able to get to now famous dinosaur ranges in Montana and the Gobi Dessert, but also in Australia, Africa, and even India. In tracing the history of dinosaur research, Naish includes the "Great Dinosaur Rush" which started in the beginning of the 20th century and was characterized by paleontologists as popular heroes, driven to frontiers in order to bring spectacular finds to their museums. _Tyrannosaurus_, for instance, was a product of these expeditions. The pace and enthusiasm settled down in the middle of the century, only to pick up as the "Dinosaur Renaissance" of the 1960's. It was sparked by complete rethinking of the evolutionary and ecological roles that dinosaurs filled. One of the important figures (Naish includes short biographies of many dinosaur researchers) is John Ostrom, whose earliest work was about duckbilled hadrosaurs; it reclassified them from amphibians to terrestrial browsers. In 1964, Ostrom and colleagues discovered _Deinonychus_ in Montana, a close relative of the famous _Velociraptor_ from Jurassic Park. Ostrom regarded its skeletal anatomy, and inferred that it was, in his words, "a highly predaceous, extremely agile and very active animal" whose metabolism and activity would have been higher than we would associate with reptiles. He noted similarities to the famous feathered dinosaur _Archaeopteryx_, and renewed the idea that birds had evolved from dinosaurs, an idea first proposed by "Darwin's Bulldog," Thomas Henry Huxley, in the nineteenth century. Ostrom's student, Robert Bakker, argued that dinosaurs were not just active, but warm-blooded, and that instead of thinking of them as evolutionary dead-ends, they should be regarded as successes because they brought forth the astonishingly successful birds. Ostrom's ideas have been reinforced by even more recent _Deinonychus_ finds that show it was feathered and more like a bird than even he had suspected.

Bringing the history up to the present, Naish includes the latest news about dinosaurs with not just feathers, but fur, the famous tyrannosaur named Sue, and the weird spiky head of _Dracorex hogwartsia_, the first of whose names means "dragon king," while the second comes from Hogwarts Academy, where Harry Potter trained. This grand book is filled on every page with color photographs and artists' impressions of extraordinary beasts. The paintings follow the current trend of imagining dinosaurs in purple, green, red, and blue, with stripes or patches; given the closeness of dinosaurs to birds, I suppose it isn't much of a stretch to give them some of the vivid colors their descendants have. It will be interesting to see how a book on the same subject twenty years from now might look. After all, Naish frequently points out faulty paleontological conceptions and how scientists came to correct them; many of our current concepts will need modification, of course. He says that we are experiencing a dinosaur boom: "The number of recognized dinosaurs has undergone an extraordinary 85 percent increase since 1990." Here is a gorgeous demonstration of a couple of centuries of admirable scientific effort.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful history of dinosaur discoveries, February 23, 2010
This review is from: The Great Dinosaur Discoveries (Hardcover)
As Andrew Everett writes in the first Review here on Amazon, this is a beautiful book with excellent illustrations and well written, informative text; I concur with everything Everett writes. Some insights from the author (and a few of my own) may help you decide on which of the enormous number of dinosaur books you should invest in.

Naish writes on his website Tetrapod Zoology the his aim "was to show how our knowledge and understanding of dinosaurs has itself evolved over the decades. This sort of thing has only really been done a few times before. Ned Colbert looked at the history of dinosaur science in his 1969 Men and the Dinosaurs, The Search in Field and Laboratory, and John Gilbert did likewise in the extremely poorly known Dinosaurs Discovered(Hamlyn, 1979). Desmond's Hot Blooded Dinosaurs is also notable for its strong historical narrative."

He covers some of the well known discoveries -- Osborn/Tyrannosaurus rex, Janensch/Tendaguru sauropods, and Nopcsa/Transylvanian dinosaurs. Others are less well known: "I also included such things as the recognition of heterodontosaurids, the discovery of Pelecanimimus, alvarezsaurids, scansoriopterygids and Asian lambeosaurines, the 'dinosaur renaissance', Holtz's 'tyrannoraptor' hypothesis, and something that I've termed 'the South American sauropod explosion'."

The book includes some of the wonderful CT-imaging work done by the Witmer Lab; it is well worth visiting the Lab's website from time to time to see the newest images. The book contains some excellent photographs and a number of artistic images.

Naish is a wonderfully open writer and it is great fun to follow his perilous online life through his website. Currently he has a series of posts entitled "This Little Piggy Goes Ploughing": The bipedal 'boxing' behaviour of babirusas is odd, but arguably odder is a unique sort of 'ploughing' behaviour they've recently been shown to practise. On being presented with an area of soft sand, captive babirusas (mostly males) have been noted to kneel down and push their head and chest forward through the sand, the result being a deep furrow.

He's equally open about this book: "If you like the book, then please consider posting a review on Amazon. If you don't like the book: well, the thing about dinosaur books is that there are an awful lot of them, so go find another one."

I did like the book enormously; I did write and post a Review on Amazon; and I'll undoubtedly poke around and find another one. Just as Naish told me to.

Robert C. Ross 2010
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