Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My 7th Pair of Reviews

As an Art Evolved member, I post a pair of my reviews here every so often, the 1st being positive & the 2nd being negative. I'd greatly appreciate you reading & voting "Yes" for said reviews in the bolded links below. Besides wanting to make sure said reviews give a good idea of what to expect, they need all the "Yes" votes they can get because 1) the 1st is for a very good book that deserves more attention, & 2) the 2nd is outnumbered by opposing reviews (which don't give a good idea of what to expect: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/walking-with-dinosaurs-mike-benton/1113109118?ean=9780789471680 ). Many thanks in advance.

P.S. For my previous reviews, see the following posts:
-"My 1st Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2013/03/my-1st-pair-of-reviews.html ).
-"My 2nd Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2013/04/my-2nd-pair-of-reviews.html ).
-"My 3rd Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2014/04/my-3rd-pair-of-reviews_21.html ).
-"My 4th Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2014/08/as-art-evolved-member-i-post-pair-of-my.html ).
-"My 5th Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2014/10/my-5th-pair-of-reviews.html ).
-"My 6th Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2014/11/my-6th-pair-of-reviews.html ).


The best adult WWD book ( http://www.amazon.com/review/R1NXSYJDL0LBHM/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=0563537434&channel=detail-glance&nodeID=283155&store=books ): 4/5.

Short version: If you want the best adult WWD book, get Martill/Naish's "Walking with Dinosaurs: The Evidence - How Did They Know That?" (henceforth Evidence).* I recommend reading Evidence in conjunction with other, more recent books (E.g. Holtz's "Dinosaurs").

Long version: Read on.

As far as I know, there are 3 adult WWD books: The 1st 1 is Haines' "Walking with Dinosaurs: A Natural History", a decent natural history of dinos with a chronological format; The 2nd 1 is Benton's "Walking With Dinosaurs: Fascinating Facts", a bad natural history of dinos with a Q&A format; The 3rd & last 1 is Evidence. In this review, I list the 2 main reasons why I think Evidence is the best 1.

1) Evidence does the same things as the other adult WWD books, but better:
-Like the 1st 1, Evidence has a chronological format with each chapter focusing on a different Mesozoic site (1 Late Triassic, 2 Late Jurassic, 2 Early Cretaceous, & 1 Late Cretaceous). Unlike the 1st 1, each chapter shows how we know what we know.
-Like the 2nd 1, Evidence has a Q&A format with each chapter divided into sections & each section having a sub-title (which is often a question). Unlike the 2nd 1, the questions are specific, the answers are concise, & the Q&As are good.

2) Evidence does things that the other adult WWD books don't:
-On the 1 hand, the 1st 1 "is transcribed natural history documentary...I don't know if it's actually the script from the TV programmes, but it's very similar in flavour if not detail. This means that it shares the programmes' fatal weakness that you can't tell what's fact, what's pure speculation and what's in between" ( http://www.miketaylor.org.uk/dino/books/#gsc.tab=0 ). On the other hand, Evidence "admirably [fills] this gap" ( http://paleoaerie.org/recommended/ ).
-On the 1 hand, the 2nd 1 has almost nothing to do with WWD (There's a bit about the making of WWD in Chapter 2 & a series of color plates; That's about it). On the other hand, Evidence has everything to do with WWD ("Bringing these animals back to life for [WWD] relied on two primary sources of information...In this book we explore this information to show the scientific methodology behind the scenes of [WWD]").

At this point, you may be wondering why only 4/5 stars? For 1, "some of the animals, such as the Tyrannosaurus, were highly inaccurate" (See DK's "Ask Me Everything"). For another, there are several weird bits throughout WWD that pass without comment (E.g. The Diplodocus ovipositor). 2 more things of note: 1) Holtz's "Dinosaurs" gives the best idea of what we've learned since WWD (E.g. Compare the Martill/Naish quote to the Holtz quote); 2) Haines/Chambers' "The Complete Guide to Prehistoric Life" does not (I.e. It either makes the same mistakes as WWD or comes up with new ones).

*WWD = "Walking with Dinosaurs".
Quoting Martill/Naish: "While it is by no means impossible that Deinonychus and other dromaeosaurs did cooperate and hunt like this, other possibilities exist. Perhaps the dromaeosaurs exhibited mobbing behaviour...that is, they they did not live together permanently (like truly social animals, such as wolves and lions) but simply cooperated when prey was available. Some predatory lizards, crocodiles and birds still do this today. True pack behaviour for Deinonychus seems unlikely if it means that they routinely attacked an animal that usually ended up killing several of the pack members!"
Quoting Holtz: "If a pack of wolves or a pride of lions loses a couple of members during an attack, the group may become too weak to hunt effectively. But dinosaurs were not mammals. Because each adult female could lay a dozen or more eggs every year, they could replenish their numbers more easily than mammals. So a raptor pack could lose more hunters every year than a lion pride and still be successful.


The worst adult WWD book ( http://www.amazon.com/review/RA7SEUWSUPTX1/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=078947168X&channel=detail-glance&nodeID=283155&store=books ): 2/5.

Short version: If you want the best natural history of dinos, get Gardom/Milner's "The Natural History Museum Book of Dinosaurs". If you want the best dino Q&A book, get Norell et al.'s "Discovering Dinosaurs: Evolution, Extinction, and the Lessons of Prehistory, Expanded and Updated". If you want the best adult WWD book, get Martill/Naish's "Walking with Dinosaurs: The Evidence - How Did They Know That?".* Benton's "Walking With Dinosaurs: Fascinating Facts" (henceforth Facts) fails at being any of these or even just decent in its own right.

Long version: Read on.

Benton & Brusatte are consistently good sources for the specialist (E.g. See Brusatte's "Dinosaur Paleobiology"). However, they're also consistently not-so-good sources for casual readers/the enthusiast. In my previous review, I referred to Martill/Naish's "Walking with Dinosaurs: The Evidence - How Did They Know That?" as the best adult WWD book. In this review, I list the 4 main reasons why I think Facts is the worst adult WWD book, among other things.

1) There are several weird bits throughout Facts, including illustrations that are tracings of famous reconstructions (E.g. GSPaul's "Tarbosaurus and Therizinosaurus" & Skrepnick's "Caudipteryx zoui" in Chapter 8 & 9, respectively) & captions that misidentify said reconstructions (E.g. Tarbosaurus/Therizinosaurus/Caudipteryx are misidentified as Sinraptor/Alxasaurus/"a troodontid-like dinosaur", respectively).

2) It's claimed that Facts is a natural history of dinos in the Introduction ("In [Facts], you can read all the background details and discover how dinosaurs moved and fed, how they mated and looked after their young, how they fought and defended themselves, whether they were warm-blooded or not, what noises they might have made, and the latest thinking on why they died out"). Being well-organized is especially important to a natural history of dinos given that it's "designed to be read from start to finish as the developing story of a remarkable group of animals" ( http://www.amazon.co.uk/Natural-History-Museum-Book-Dinosaurs/dp/184442183X ). The problem is that Facts is anything but: A decent natural history of dinos wouldn't wait until Chapter 9 to define dinos ("Throughout this book, we've been flinging around terms with abandon such as "theropod," "sauropod," "stegosaur" and the like. It's time now to establish clearly just what these groups were"); Also, it wouldn't take physiology & shoehorn it into the middle of a chapter about attack & defense (as in Chapter 8 of Facts).

3) It is not claimed that Facts is a dino Q&A book, but it is implied by the format (Each chapter is divided into sections; Each section has a sub-title, which is often a question). As you may remember, I generally dislike the dino Q&A genre for 3 main reasons: 1) Repetitive questions (I.e. The same questions are asked over & over again); 2) Vague answers (I.e. The answers don't explain anything); 3) Bad Q&As (I.e. Stupid or misleading questions & misleading or wrong answers). The problem is that Facts does all that & MUCH more:
-Repetitive questions? Check (E.g. "Wild and preposterous notions", "Unfettered speculation", & "Untestable nonsense" are the sub-titles of 3 back-to-back Q&As in Chapter 10)!
-Vague answers? Check (E.g. See the 1st Benton quote; Notice that it doesn't explain what it means by "some astonishing new specimens" nor how they "allowed paleo-ornithologists to fill lots of gaps in the evolutionary tree of birds")!
-Bad Q&As? Check times infinity (E.g. First, see the 2nd Benton quote; Then, google "Dinosauroids revisited, revisited" for why it's bad)!

4) Despite its title, Facts has almost nothing to do with WWD: There's a bit about the making of WWD in Chapter 2 & a series of color plates; That's about it.

*WWD = "Walking with Dinosaurs".
Quoting Benton: "Bird evolution after Archaeopteryx
Until 1990 very little was known about bird evolution during the bulk of the Cretaceous. Othniel Marsh had described in the 1880s some remarkable toothed birds from the Late Cretaceous of North America, Hesperornis and Ichthyornis. Only odd scraps of other birds had come to light before the appearance of modern birds at the very end of the Mesozoic, sixty-five million years ago. Then, some astonishing new specimens were announced, first four or five specimens from Spain, and then dozens from China...These new specimens were all exquisitely preserved, showing every bone, feathers, even beaks and claws. They allowed paleo-ornithologists to fill lots of gaps in the evolutionary tree of birds. Next time you see a sparrow twittering in the hedgerow, remember you are looking a cousin of Tyrannosaurus in the eye. And be very, very scared."
Quoting Benton: "Humanoid dinosaurs?
There is no doubt about the intelligence of the troodontids. Unlike all other dinosaurs, they have a bulbous braincase, more bird than reptile. In part, the brain was enlarged in the sensory regions: so troodontids had large eyes and a good sense of smell, as well as a good sense of hearing. But, it's been speculated, improved sense and pack hunting mean more actual intelligence. In 1982 the Canadian paleontologist Dale Russell speculated about what might have happened had the dinosaurs not died out 65 million years ago. Perhaps the troodontids would have inherited the earth, becoming ever more humanoid. He and sculptor R. Séguin created a model of a dinosaurian humanoid, based on the projected evolution of troodontids through another 65 million years. It has a bulbous cranium, large goggly eyes, and it walks upright without a balancing tail. Scary concept."

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Jurassic World should be called Kaiju World

So like all other palaeo-geeks, I've found I've been sucked into the Jurassic World trailer, like a bystander witnessing a bus full of orphans crashing into a train full of TNT...

Now of course I'm... displeased... to understate it, by the lack of unfeathered, anatomically broken, boring retro dinosaurs. However that's kind of old none surprising news by this point, given the director's public statements from a while ago.

For me seeing the trailer held a single moment of giddy joy, when the Mosasaur leapt out of the water... Sadly it was short lived. (and no it wasn't due to the question: "how the hell did a mosquito bite a marine reptile?" though that too adds to the sheer stupidity of JP4)



I found the moment and the giddy sapped from me seconds after this exact scene played out (and the trailer went to the chasm of stupidity that was the hybrid threat). I realized the movie didn't need to invent a killer smart Dinosaur hybrid (or to quote Sealab "I took nature's perfect killing machine and needlessly turned it into a robot") to be scary.

They'd invented a movie worthy monster right here in this scene!

The reason being the meal for the Mosasaur.

The trailer goes out of its way to hammer in that's a Great White Shark. The trailer goes out of its way to emphasis this Mosasaur can swallow the Great White in one gulp (which at least is scientifically accurate...). The trailer goes out of its way to hammer all this at me, a rather avid Mosasaur fan... Triggering an amusing thought in my head.

Just how many Blue Whales big is this Mosasaur?














Now the answer wasn't that hard to sort out... However PLEASE NOTE, this was done in a tongue and cheek manner. I'm not claiming scientific accuracy or methodology. Why bother, the answer is so ridiculous (either way) it is a waste of time to try and do completely accurately. I'd rather myself and others spent their time on useful things ;)

 I quickly set up this diagram. Step 1 was to grab a full body shot of a Mosasaur (by myself) and scale it up so the head was the same size as the movie still. This gave me the whole Mosasaur. (and yeah I know his tail is not straight, again this was meant as a fast and loose demonstration of the absurdity on display, not a scientific paper).

Then I took the Shark and subbed a scaled diagram from wikipedia for simplicity, and measured out my full sized Mosasaur. Then going with a biggish size Great White at 6m I could measure out a Blue Whale and the largest known Mosasaurs (another reason I played fast and loose with the mosasaur diagram, is there is contention on the largest genus and specimens among Mosasaurs).

In conclusion I ended up with a Mosasaur that no matter what the size the adult shark is, gives me a marine reptile much much larger than a Blue Whale. That to me puts it into Kaiju size. I'd rather have seen this guy in Pacific Rim then a Jurassic Park film.

Here is a Mosasaur in a much better scale.

Taniwhasaurus with human. Taniwhasaurus by Craig Dylke
Driver photo by Unknown (I lost their name in a harddrive collapse... if you know let me know so I can reapply the credit ;) )



Monday, November 17, 2014

My 6th Pair of Reviews

As an Art Evolved member, I post a pair of my reviews here every so often, the 1st being positive & the 2nd being negative. I'd greatly appreciate you reading & voting "Yes" for said reviews in the bolded links below. Besides wanting to make sure said reviews give a good idea of what to expect, they need all the "Yes" votes they can get because 1) the 1st is for a great book that deserves more attention, & 2) the 2nd is outnumbered by opposing reviews (which don't give a good idea of what to expect). Many thanks in advance.

P.S. For my previous reviews, see the following posts:
-"My 1st Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2013/03/my-1st-pair-of-reviews.html ).
-"My 2nd Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2013/04/my-2nd-pair-of-reviews.html ).
-"My 3rd Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2014/04/my-3rd-pair-of-reviews_21.html ).
-"My 4th Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2014/08/as-art-evolved-member-i-post-pair-of-my.html ).
-"My 5th Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2014/10/my-5th-pair-of-reviews.html ).


1 of the books that got me into feathered dinos ( http://www.amazon.com/review/R1UO9MSFJ9W37N/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=0792272196&channel=detail-glance&nodeID=283155&store=books ): 5/5

Short version: Before the "Dinosaur Train" series, Sloan's "Feathered Dinosaurs" (henceforth FD) was, & in some ways still is, the best children's dino book when it came to introducing kids to feathered dinos. I recommend reading FD in conjunction with other, more recent books (E.g. Gardom/Milner's "The Natural History Museum Book of Dinosaurs").

Long version: Read on.

FD was 1 of the books that got me into feathered dinos, along with Cooley/Wilson's "Make-a-saurus: My Life with Raptors and Other Dinosaurs". In this review, I list the 2 main reasons why I think that is.

1) All the paleoart is beautiful, but the real highlights of FD are Czerkas' & Cooley's life-like models of feathered dinos (which are on the cover & in Chapter 4, respectively) & GSPaul's field guide-esque drawings of feathered dinos (which "are sprinkled throughout"): To quote Witton ( http://markwitton-com.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-mysterious-mysteries-of-feather.html ), "it's not surprising that many laymen think that feathered theropods look silly. Many of the more memorable and longest-lived reconstructions of them are, and perhaps these are what most folks think of when the words 'feathered dinosaur' come to mind. Scaly theropods undeniably looked more intuitively plausible, not to mention more aesthetically pleasing, than a lot of the weird imagery once thrown about by palaeoartists"; Thanks to said models & drawings (which look like real animals), I didn't have that problem.

2) While not a natural history of feathered dinos per se, FD "is designed to be read from start to finish as the developing story of a remarkable group of animals" ( http://www.amazon.co.uk/Natural-History-Museum-Book-Dinosaurs/dp/184442183X ): After the Introduction by Currie, FD consists of 6 chapters, beginning with the history of "the dinosaur-bird connection" from the 1860s to the 1970s, continuing with the skeletal & behavioral evidence, & ending with the Chinese feathered dinos; The middle chapters are especially good at showing how we know what we know, explaining the scientific method without dumbing down; This reminds me of the "Dinosaur Train" series, but for older kids.

If I could, I'd give FD a 4.5/5. My only gripes are the paleoart in the middle chapters (some of which is outdated to varying degrees) & the terminology in the middle chapters (some of which isn't illustrated). However, for the purposes of this review, I'll round up to 5/5. 2 more things of note: 1) Gardom/Milner's "The Natural History Museum Book of Dinosaurs" gives the best idea of what we've learned since FD (E.g. Compare the Sloan quote to the Gardom/Milner quote); 2) Sloan's "How Dinosaurs Took Flight: The Fossils, the Science, What We Think We Know, and Mysteries Yet Unsolved" does not (I.e. Some of the paleoart is anything but beautiful & some of the science is dumbed down).*

*When I say "Some of the paleoart", I mean Groves' abominable models of feathered dinos (which look like movie monsters). Don't take my word for it, though. Compare the cover of Sloan's "How Dinosaurs Took Flight: The Fossils, the Science, What We Think We Know, and Mysteries Yet Unsolved" with those of FD & Cooley/Wilson's "Make-a-saurus: My Life with Raptors and Other Dinosaurs".
Quoting Sloan: "Increasing-evidence shows that the prey-grabbing motion of a dinosaur's arms is like the flight stroke of a bird. Early feathers may have been useful for extra balance or to boost jumping. Eventually dinosaurs became airborne as they leaped for prey.
Birdlike dinosaurs also may have climbed trees and become flyers as they jumped or glided down. We'll probably never know whether flight evolved from the ground or in trees. The important thing is how the flight stroke evolved."
Quoting Gardom/Milner: "Recent studies on escape behaviour in modern ground-living birds such as quail and partridge provides an interesting addition to the debate. They employ 'wing-assisted vertical running' to get off the ground, beating their wings rapidly to generate a down force to help them stick to the substrate while climbing a bush or tree trunk. Even the fluff on chicks' wings increases the wing surface area sufficiently to allow efficient climbing. Thus it has been suggested that dino-bird arm feathers could have functioned in the same way...as downforce generators and 'proto-wing' gliding structures. They prey-catching idea is now giving way to an hypothesis that the selective pressures leading to flight may have arisen as a predator escape mechanism in small theropods whereby the presence of feathered arms would aid rapid climbing away from danger and allow gliding from perch to perch or perch to ground. Archaeopteryx represents a late stage in this process with a modern wing configuration of asymmetric primary and secondary flight feathers permitting limited stable powered flight."


Good idea, bad execution ( http://www.amazon.com/review/R1BRQGIJNZWTQH/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=0297843478&nodeID=283155&store=books ): 1/5

I was originally planning on reviewing Mash's "How to Keep Dinosaurs" (henceforth HK) the way I usually review bad dino books. However, I then remembered that Naish's HK review is so perfect (especially when it comes to Pixel-shack's digital paleoart) I can't possibly top it, so I won't.* Instead, in this review, I point you to Naish's HK review & add my own thoughts as well.
-I'm surprised that Naish didn't mention Dawkins given that, to quote Naish ( http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/tetrapod-zoology/2012/11/05/great-dinosaur-art-event-of-2012/ ), "There are good consultants, but there are downright useless consultants". Dawkins may be a great evolutionary biologist & technical writer, but he's "downright useless" as a consultant of popular dino books. In HK, Dawkins' Foreword is very pretentious/acidic/inaccurate (E.g. See the Dawkins quote).
-To quote Naish, "the author notes that the book is a practical manual rather than a taxonomic treatise". This is in reference to Mash referring to non-dinos (E.g. Pterosaurs) as dinos. In other words, Mash is saying, "What I'm doing is wrong, I know it's wrong, but I'm gonna do it anyway" ( http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/WebVideo/TheMysteriousMrEnter ).
-The only consistently good thing about HK is the paleontology in-jokes: On page 51, it's claimed that "Deinonychus was discovered only in 1969" & that they "play in groups of four"; The 1st quote is in reference to Ostrom 1969 (I.e. "Osteology of Deinonychus antirrhopus, an Unusual Theropod from the Lower Cretaceous of Montana") & the 2nd quote is in reference to "the Four Raptor Site" ( https://blog.hmns.org/2010/03/raptors-group-hunters-or-cannibals/ ). However, to quote Naish, "seeing as how few palaeontologists will read this book...most of these jokes are going to be missed."
-To quote Naish, HK "could have been a really interesting experiment in the reconstruction of behaviour, and on whatever imaginary perils and pitfalls might befall any attempt to bring dinosaurs into the human world." Personally, I'd love to see an adult book version of Conway's "The Dinosaur Pet Guide" ( http://johnconway.co/dinosaur_pet_guide ) in the style of Conway et al.'s "All Yesterdays: Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals". Until then, the closest thing we have is Bradley's "Care & Feeding Of Dinosaurs", a very good but outdated (E.g. Un-feathered coelurosaurs) children's book.

*Don't take my word for it, though. Google "How (not) to keep dinosaurs" & read it for yourself.
Quoting Dawkins: "The book can be appreciated on many levels. It is by no means only an owner's manual, though it is indispensably that. For all its sound practical advice, it could only have been written by a professional zoologist, drawing deeply on theory and scholarship. Many of the facts herein are accurate. The world of dinosaurs has always been richly provided with wonder and amazement, and Mash's manual only adds to the mixture. As a theological aside, creationists (now excitingly rebranded as Intelligent Design Theorists) will find it an invaluable resource in their battle against the preposterous canard that humans and dinosaurs are separated by 65 million years of geological time."

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

My 5th Pair of Reviews

As an Art Evolved member, I post a pair of my reviews here every so often, the 1st being positive & the 2nd being negative. I'd greatly appreciate you reading & voting "Yes" for said reviews in the bolded links below. Besides wanting to make sure said reviews give a good idea of what to expect, they need all the "Yes" votes they can get because 1) the 1st is for a great book that deserves more attention, & 2) the 2nd is outnumbered by opposing reviews (which don't give a good idea of what to expect). Many thanks in advance.

P.S. For my previous reviews, see the following posts:
-"My 1st Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2013/03/my-1st-pair-of-reviews.html ).
-"My 2nd Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2013/04/my-2nd-pair-of-reviews.html ).
-"My 3rd Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2014/04/my-3rd-pair-of-reviews_21.html ).
-"My 4th Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2014/08/as-art-evolved-member-i-post-pair-of-my.html ).


An updated version of a childhood classic ( http://www.amazon.com/review/R3SMN5XFG3FA2P/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B009MYAUD2&channel=detail-glance&nodeID=133140011&store=digital-text ): 5/5

If you're anything like me (I.e. A life-long dino fan born in the 1980s), you probably grew up with Zallinger's work in general & "Prehistoric Animals" (henceforth PA) in particular. Bakker's "Prehistoric Monsters" (henceforth PM) is basically an updated version of PA. In fact, despite being 8 pages shorter & not illustrated by the author (which are my only gripes), PM is even better than PA: For 1, PM's text is more concise (E.g. Google "Prehistoric CSI: Dr. Bakker's new book: Prehistoric Monsters!" & in the 1st link, see the 3rd image down; PM does in 2 pages what takes PA 4 pages to do); For another, PM's paleoart is more realistic (I.e. To paraphrase Switek, "[Rey's] animals run, swim, breach, flap, chomp, skitter, and lope through the landscapes, giving the viewer the impression that they're really watching a prehistoric scene rather than an obedient dinosaur posing for the artist"); For yet another, PM is more complete overall, covering a greater length of geologic time (3+ billion years vs. 500+ million years) & a greater variety of animal life, especially invertebrates. In short, PM is the best introduction to the history of animal life on Earth for younger kids.


A representation of uninformed laziness ( http://www.amazon.com/review/R3J1R5BYAZABGZ/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1847244173&nodeID=283155&store=books ): 1/5

Short Version: If you want the best digital paleoart, get Csotonyi's "The Paleoart of Julius Csotonyi". If you want the best natural history of dinos, get Gardom/Milner's "The Natural History Museum Book of Dinosaurs". If you want the best collection of dino profiles, get GSPaul's "The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs". Brusatte/Benton's "Dinosaurs" fails at being any of these or even just decent in its own right.

Long Version: Read on.

Benton & Brusatte are consistently good sources for the specialist (E.g. See Brusatte's "Dinosaur Paleobiology"). However, they're also consistently not-so-good sources for casual readers/the enthusiast. Dinosaurs in particular is so bad that Naish described it as a representation of "uninformed laziness" (Google "All Yesterdays Book Launch Talk - Darren Naish"). In this review, I list the 4 main reasons why I think Dinosaurs is that bad.

1) The writing is annoyingly hyperbolic (E.g. See the Brusatte/Benton quote), annoyingly repetitive (E.g. On average, the word "dominate" is used once or twice per page in Dinosaurs, a 224 page book; In fact, it's used 3 times, back-to-back, in the 1st paragraph alone), &/or just plain annoying (E.g. It goes back & forth between "story" & "storey" throughout Dinosaurs).

2) The text is hit-&-miss in terms of getting the facts straight. This is especially apparent in the dino profiles because the misses stick out more with less text. That of the Protoceratops profile is some of the worst: On page 205, Protoceratops is described as being "a small, generalized grazer of low plants"; Also, on the same page, it's claimed that "the frill anchored strong jaw muscles...that helped Protoceratops mow through shrubs and bushes". When I 1st read that, all I could think was "BS": For 1 (in reference to "on page 205"), "the hooked beak of the snout together with the predentary...strongly suggests that these herbivores were capable of a great deal of selective feeding" (See Fastovsky/Weishampel's "The Evolution and Extinction of the Dinosaurs"); For another (in reference to "also"), "there are many problems with this idea, starting with the fact that no living animal has such strange lengthy jaw muscles. Such muscles would have been terribly vulnerable to injury if males really did fight with each other as we think likely" (See Lanzendorf's "Dinosaur Imagery: The Science of Lost Worlds and Jurassic Art: The Lanzendorf Collection").

3) "Planet Dinosaur" (which is a decent dino doc in its own right) was billed as the new "Walking With Dinosaurs" (which is the 1st natural history doc about dinos). However, to quote Albertonykus (Google "Raptormaniacs: Planet Dinosaur: The Great Survivors"), "One of the less desirable characteristics of Planet Dinosaur is that it's very theropod centric...Planet Dinosaur probably should have been called "Planet Theropod"." Likewise, Dinosaurs should've been called "Theropods": It's claimed that Dinosaurs is a natural history of dinos several times throughout (E.g. "The rich, unfolding drama of the Age of Dinosaurs is the theme of this book"); However, while 5 sub-chapters focus on theropods (1 for tetanurans, 1 for coelurosaurs, 1 for bird origins & evolution, 1 for Chinese feathered dinos, & 1 for T.rex), only 3 focus on non-theropods (2 for sauropodomorphs & 1 for ornithischians).*

4) Pixel-shack's digital paleoart is the worst I've seen in a post-2000 popular dino book. In Dinosaurs, some of the reconstructions are shameless rip-offs of more famous reconstructions (E.g. The Spinosaurus is a shameless rip-off of the "Jurassic Park" Spinosaurus). Others are poorly-photoshopped animals (E.g. The non-dino Euparkeria is a poorly-photoshopped green iguana). Still others are just plain outdated/abominable. The deinonychosaurs are especially outdated: To quote Naish (Google "The Great Dinosaur Art Event of 2012"), "When a dinosaur book published in 2011 features scaly-skinned, completely un-feathered dromaeosaurs with down-facing palms, and yet was supposedly checked by one of the world's most famous and respected vertebrate palaeontologists, we know we have a problem"; & if that's not bad enough, most of them are depicted as having Velociraptor's head; This is especially apparent in the Dromaeosaurus (See "Voir les 7 images": http://www.amazon.fr/Dinosaures-Steve-Brusatte/dp/2753300720 ) because it's also a shameless rip-off of Kokoro's Velociraptor. Likewise, the ceratopsians are especially abominable: Most of them are depicted as being piles of poop (I'm not trying to be creative or vulgar with my language; They really look like piles of poop); This is especially apparent in the Torosaurus (Google "Torosaurus by Russell") because it's even lumpier & darker brown than the others; & if that's not bad enough, the Torosaurus is also a shameless rip-off of the "Walking With Dinosaurs" Torosaurus.

*A decent natural history of dinos would combine the 1 for bird origins & evolution with the 1 for Chinese feathered dinos (as in Chapter 10 of Gardom/Milner's "The Natural History Museum Book of Dinosaurs"). Also, it would use T.rex as a vehicle to address a broader range of topics (as with Baryonyx in Chapter 9 of Gardom/Milner's "The Natural History Museum Book of Dinosaurs").
Quoting Brusatte/Benton: In 1922 Andrews' team discovered a heavily crushed but remarkably complete skull of a small theropod. This skull was very similar to Brown's Dromaeosaurus, but found alongside was something paleontologists had never seen before: a giant, curved and dangerously sharp toe claw. Two years later museum scientist Henry Fairfield Osborn named this new animal Velociraptor, the 'speedy thief'. It was a nightmarish creature, a human-sized carnivore that could rip prey apart with its lethal claws and array of knife-like teeth.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Royal Tyrrell Poster Contest

2014 Palaeo Arts Contest at the Royal Tyrrell Museum. This year, museum scientists have selected a Lambeosaurus skull to interpret through art. The annual Palaeo Arts Contest is open to students of all grade levels, has prizes for every winner, including two $500 draw prizes that are awarded to schools, and offers the chance to have students’ winning artwork displayed at the Museum. The deadline for submissions is December 31, 2014. Go to http://www.tyrrellmuseum.com/programs/school/Palaeo_Arts_Contest.htm to download the 2014 Palaeo Arts Contest information package, including topics for each grade level.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Dreadnought, exposed!

I know this comes a bit late, but if you haven't seen the new pics of the gigantic Dreadnoughtus schrani, check out my take on it here: http://paleoking.blogspot.com/2014/09/dreadnoughtus-truth-and-myth.html


In 2010 I covered this immensely rare find, though then it was known as Dr. Lacovara's titanosaur, or simply the "forklift buster". Probably massed 65 tons when alive.


Although reports of it being the new "biggest" dinosaur are, I think, exaggerated, it's definitely one of the top 10. And not for nothing it has one of the greatest dinosaur names ever chosen.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

My 4th Pair of Reviews

As an Art Evolved member, I post a pair of my reviews here every so often, the 1st being positive & the 2nd being negative. I'd greatly appreciate you reading & voting "Yes" for said reviews in the bolded links below. Besides wanting to make sure said reviews give a good idea of what to expect, they need all the "Yes" votes they can get because 1) the 1st is for a great show that deserves more attention, & 2) the 2nd is outnumbered by opposing reviews (which don't give a good idea of what to expect). Many thanks in advance.

P.S. For my previous reviews, see the following posts:
-"My 1st Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2013/03/my-1st-pair-of-reviews.html ).
-"My 2nd Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2013/04/my-2nd-pair-of-reviews.html ).
-"My 3rd Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2014/04/my-3rd-pair-of-reviews_21.html ).


Better than their previous best ( http://www.amazon.com/review/R2YG8ZL43RYDFO/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B00652U6WE&nodeID=2625373011&store=movies-tv ): 5/5

Short version: If I was going to build the perfect science/nature edutainment show, I'd build a Kratt show. If I was going to build the perfect Kratt show, I'd build a "Wild Kratts" (henceforth WK) because it's just the right blend of education & entertainment. There are few good science/nature shows on TV, making WK all the more important.*

Long version: Read on.

As you may have noticed, I usually review non-fiction books. That's because non-fiction books are more structured than other forms of edutainment (& thus, easier for me to review). However, I feel so strongly about WK that I had to make an exception. In this review, I list the 4 main reasons why I think WK is currently the best science/nature edutainment show while using the "Raptor Roundup" episode (I.e. My favorite episode) as an example.

1) In WK, all the characters are a ton of fun: For 1, the WK crew reminds me of Mystery Incorporated, but better defined/developed; Chris & Martin (henceforth the Kratts) are, like Fred, the leaders, but also "real-life zoologists" ( http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/the-kratt-brothers-get-animated-when-wild-kratts-shows-kids-that-animals-can-take-you-anywhere-in-science-on-pbs-kids-go---january-2011-112241999.html ); Aviva is, like Daphne, the hot girl, but also a brilliant inventor; Koki is, like Velma, the researcher, but also a sassy black woman; Jimmy is, like Shaggy, the lovable coward, but also a "master gamer" ( http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/the-kratt-brothers-get-animated-when-wild-kratts-shows-kids-that-animals-can-take-you-anywhere-in-science-on-pbs-kids-go---january-2011-112241999.html ); All that's missing is the animal mascot (unless you count the Tortuga HQ); For another, the WK villains remind me of Disney villains, but with unique twists; Chef Gourmand is basically Chef Louis from "The Little Mermaid" with a Southern accent instead of a French 1; Also, Gourmand specializes in cooking with endangered animals; Donita Donata is basically Cruella De Vil from "101 Dalmatians" with 1 bumbling henchman (Dabio) instead of 2; Also, Donita freezes animals in suspended animation to use for jewelry/clothes; & don't tell me Zach Varmitech's incredibly shrill voice doesn't remind you of Iago from "Aladdin".

2) Growing up, my favorite stories were animated animal adventures (E.g. Walt Disney Animated Classics) & real-life animal adventures (E.g. Walt Disney's True-Life Adventures). WK combines the best of both worlds with animated versions of real-life animal adventures. Better still, said adventures are based around key scientific concepts (E.g. In "Raptor Roundup", the Kratts challenge themselves to ID as many raptors as they can; We learn about classification).

3) There are 3 main reasons for WK's good humor: 1) Funny characters who can be summed up by Dr. Cox's rant in the "My Fishbowl" episode of "Scrubs"; Aviva, like Carla, is "very funny...WHEN [she's] being sarcastic or [she's] up on [her] high horse"; Zach, like Elliot, "is funniest when [he's] an anal retentive train wreck" (The same goes for Donita); Koki, like Turk, "sells it with a cocky attitude"; Gourmand, like Janitor, "is amusing because quite frankly he's insane"; The Zachbots "can turn a phrase"; Dabio has a funny name (Fabio with a D); Jimmy, like Ted, "is the hospital sad sack"; The Kratts, like Dr. Cox, are "funny because [they] commit"; 2) Clever dialogue; Martin's animal names (E.g. "Stomp" the secretary bird) & Gourmand's dish names (E.g. "Raptor amandine. Vulture bouillabaisse. Eagle Gorgonzola. Ooh, owl étouffée. And falcon fritters") are especially good examples of WK's witty wordplay; 3) Classic physical comedy; The battles between the Kratts & Gourmand, like those between Sebastian & Louis, recall "the dark slapstick of classic era Warner Bros. cartoons" ( http://www.dvdjournal.com/quickreviews/l/littlemermaid.q.shtml ).

4) To quote Sampson ( http://edge.org/3rd_culture/sampson05/sampson05_index.html ), "The web of life is composed of two distinctly different kinds of threads<those that link organisms at any given moment in time through the flow of energy (ecology), and those that link all lifeforms through deep time via genetic information and shared common ancestry (evolution). Seen from this dual and complementary perspective, the two themes are inseparable. Without evolution, our vision is severely limited to the present day and we cannot begin to fathom the blossoming of life's diversity from single-celled forebears. Without ecology, the intricate interconnections we share with the current panoply of lifeforms cannot truly be envisioned. United in a single theme, evolution and ecology provide a powerful lens through which to view life's web, forming the foundation of an integrated and underutilized perspective on nature. In short, we need dramatic increases in levels of both ecological literacy, or "ecoliteracy," and evolutionary literacy, or "evoliteracy," with this dynamic pair of concepts reinforcing each other." That's exactly what WK does. "Raptor Roundup" is an especially good example of evoliteracy (E.g. "Got to love raptors...Fantastic flyers with powerful talon feet. Direct descendants of dinosaurs...Who still fly the skies today. Raptors are one of the most awesome creature families on the planet. They're not meant to be fried or fricasseed. They belong living free and in the wild") & ecoliteracy (E.g. "And the great thing about raptors is no matter where you live. Or what the weather's like. Raptors are flying all around. So get to know the raptors that live around you. Keep on creature venturing. And keep on identifying...Raptors!...See you on the creature trail") reinforcing each other.

*As far as I know, the BBC & PBS are the only channels that still make consistently good science/nature shows (E.g. "Life" & "Wild Kratts", respectively). I used to love watching the Discovery Channel & Animal Planet, but now they're full of garbage like "Yukon Men" ( http://www.theguardian.com/environment/nature-up/2013/may/17/bloodthirtsty-wildlife-documentaries-reality-ethics ) & "Mermaids" ( http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2013/05/29/mermaids-return-from-the-depths-of-tvs-chum-bucket/ ), respectively.


Not nearly as good as the original books ( http://www.amazon.com/review/R1A9PA105I2590/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B007I1Q4RM&channel=detail-glance&nodeID=2625373011&store=movies-tv ): 2/5

Short version: The Nostalgia Critic put it best when he said (in reference to "The Last Airbender"), "I'm sorry, I'm really sorry, I know it gets really annoying every single time I say "in the show", because it's an adaptation. Adaptations, you gotta make changes, I understand that, I really understand that, but... it's gotta be changes that make sense, guys!" Not that "The Magic School Bus" is the worst edutainment adaptation, but I just don't think it holds a candle to the original books.

Long version: Read on.

As you may have noticed, I usually review non-fiction books. That's because non-fiction books are more structured than other forms of edutainment (& thus, easier for me to review). However, I feel so strongly about "The Magic School Bus" that I had to make an exception. In this review, I list the 4 main reasons why I don't think "The Busasaurus" (henceforth TB) in particular & the show in general holds a candle to "In the Time of the Dinosaurs" (henceforth Time) in particular & the books in general.

1) In Time, Ms. Frizzle, Liz, & Arnold are the only well-defined/developed characters (E.g. We learn that Ms. Frizzle's 1st name is Valerie & that she went to high school with Jeff, her paleontologist friend). The non-Arnold kids are basically wallpaper. The same goes for the books in general. On the show, the good characters are even better developed (E.g. Ms. Frizzle is basically the female Willy Wonka), while the not-so-good characters are almost exclusively defined by their catchphrases & range from bland to awful: On the bland side, there's Tim, whose basically the Franklin to the show's Peanuts (I.e. He doesn't even have his own catchphrase); On the awful side, there's Carlos, whose basically a future FOX Newsman (I.e. He's an arrogant, obnoxious, fear/hate-mongering bigot). TB in particular shows the good characters at their best (E.g. Arnold saves the class from a T.rex) & the not-so-good characters at their worst (E.g. Carlos spouts anti-dino speeches at every available opportunity).

2) In Time, most of the ornithischians & some of the saurischians are depicted with wonky hand &/or foot anatomy. Otherwise, the animals are mostly accurate for the time. The same goes for the books in general, but not the show. See "A really big review update!" for how TB in particular fails: http://jd-man.deviantart.com/journal/A-really-big-review-update-475071561

3) In both Time & TB, the class visits Ms. Frizzle's paleontologist friend at a dino dig. However, the similarity ends there: On the 1 hand, in Time, the class travels back to the Late Cretaceous Period "to look for some Maiasaura nests" because "paleontologists have uncovered the bones of some Maiasaura...but are disappointed that they haven't found any nests" (See "Editorial Reviews": http://www.amazon.com/The-Magic-School-Time-Dinosaurs/dp/0590446894 ); We learn that "Dinosaurs Were Special" compared to "today's reptiles" (E.g. "Some dinosaurs may have been warm-blooded. All of today's reptiles are cold-blooded"); On the other hand, in TB, the class travels back to the Late Cretaceous Period "to see what those ancient reptiles...were really like" because Carlos brought up his "prejudices and preconceptions about dinosaurs" (See "Editorial Reviews": http://www.amazon.com/The-Magic-School-Bus-Busasaurus/dp/6304400683 ); We learn that "there are more plant eaters than meat eaters. The meat eaters wanted a quick meal without getting hurt. They were not blood thirsty monsters" ( http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/nttidb/lessons/as/dinoas.html ). I have 3 major problems with TB's story-related changes:* 1) T.rex shouldn't have replaced Maiasaura as the main dino; For 1, T.rex is the most overexposed & overstudied dino; For another, a cameo like in Time (I.e. 1 T.rex turns its head & glances at the class, but otherwise pays no mind to them) would've made more sense given TB's lesson; 2) TB, among other episodes, shouldn't have been based around Carlos's prejudices & preconceptions; Google "Considering Effects in Context As" for why; Point is, bigotry shouldn't be allowed on an edutainment show; 3) All carnivorous dinos shouldn't have been depicted as dangerous & all herbivorous dinos shouldn't have been depicted as friendly because, to quote Bakker (See Bakker's "Maximum Triceratops"), "that's wrong. In nature today, the most dangerous critters on land are huge, strong vegetarians. African elephants charge lions and try to squash their cubs. Black rhinos use their long horns to spear hyenas. Hippos use their big teeth to chop crocodiles in half."

4) In Time, the epilogue consists of 2 pages in which Cole & Degen recognize some major falsehood in the story (E.g. "A BUS CAN'T BECOME A TIME MACHINE") & expand on what we learn from the story (E.g. "Birds are the dinosaurs of today"). The same goes for the books in general. On the show, the epilogue consists of 3 minutes (including the completely pointless & slightly racist intro) in which the producers or guest stars do the same thing while taking phone calls from kids. I have 2 major problems with the show's epilogue: 1) Unlike the book's epilogue (which concentrates on expansion), the show's epilogue gives equal time to recognition; 2) The show's epilogue fails to cover many story-related subjects & those that are covered are done so in an insufficient manner (I.e. Sometimes, it simplifies things to the point of being meaningless; Other times, it's just plain wrong). Again, see "A really big review update!" for how TB in particular fails: http://jd-man.deviantart.com/journal/A-really-big-review-update-475071561

*I don't have a problem with all of TB's changes. In fact, I like that Carmina replaced Jeff as Ms. Frizzle's paleontologist friend given that there aren't enough "female characters with personalities" in cartoons ( http://babbletrish.blogspot.com/2013/03/revisiting-my-little-pony-friendship-is.html ).

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Top 4 Most Annoyingly-popular Dino Hypotheses

This post was inspired by the Nostalgia Critic's "Top 10 Films Doug Hates But Everyone Else Loves" ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8XG9ZQyExe4 ). It's nothing formal, just a list of what I (as a non-expert dino fan) think are the most annoyingly-popular (I.e. More popular than they should be given the evidence) dino hypotheses in recent years (I.e. Post-2000) & why. Even still, I hope that at least some of you will get something out of it. As for why "Top 4", to quote Santa Claus ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_KMYPsPNXQ ), "I've checked it more than once, but less than 10 times, because around 4 I get bored."


4) Troodon, Oviraptor, & Citipati in particular & non-bird maniraptorans in general had paternal care, "possibly within a polygamous mating system" ( http://www.esf.edu/EFB/faculty/documents/varricchio2008paternalcaredinosours.pdf ). I have 2 major problems w/this hypothesis: 1) Varricchio et al. used maximum rather than average values for clutch size (which didn't make sense to me given that "Troodon clutches vary from 12 to 24 eggs": http://studentresearch.wcp.muohio.edu/vertebrateevolution/dinoasurreprodparenting00.pdf ); 2) Varricchio et al. sampled only 2 oviraptorids (which didn't make sense to me given that "multiple brooding oviraptorids are known": http://dml.cmnh.org/2011Jan/msg00260.html ).



3) Dracorex & Stygimoloch were juvenile & sub-adult stages, respectively, of Pachycephalosaurus ( http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0007626 ). I have 2 major problems w/this hypothesis: 1) It's based on a CAST of the Dracorex skull, & thus it ignores the adult features of the skull (See "DISCUSSION": http://www.childrensmuseum.org/themuseum/dinosphere/draco_rex/dracorex_hogwartsia.pdf ); 2) It ignores the non-ontogenetic differences btwn Dracorex & Stygimoloch (Again, see "DISCUSSION": http://www.childrensmuseum.org/themuseum/dinosphere/draco_rex/dracorex_hogwartsia.pdf ).


2) Deinonychus in particular & non-bird theropods in general were like Komodo dragons in that they hunted alone or in non-cooperative mobs & not cooperative packs ( http://pds17.egloos.com/pds/201004/29/62/Theropod_Dinosaur.pdf ). I have 2 major problems w/this hypothesis: 1) Some of its arguments are very misleading (if not just plain wrong);* 2) It ignores MOR 682 (See the Maxwell quote) despite having cited Maxwell & Ostrom 1995 ( http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/4523664?uid=3739696&uid=2&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21104010290011 ).


1) Sauropods lacked an avian-style gastric mill & compensated for this "by greatly increasing food retention time in the digestive system" ( http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/274/1610/635.full.pdf ). I have 2 major problems w/this hypothesis: 1) It's based on the comparison of sauropod gastroliths to ostrich gastroliths while ignoring moa gastroliths; Like sauropods, moas were herbivorous browsers (See the Shugart quote) while ostriches are omnivorous grazers (See "Species Characteristics": http://informedfarmers.com/rhea-production/  ); It's probably no coincidence, then, that like sauropod gastroliths, moa gastroliths are polished (Again, see the Shugart quote) while ostrich gastroliths are pitted; 2) It fails to explain sauropod digestion for the same reason that gigantothermy fails to explain non-bird dino physiology; To quote Holtz, it "might apply to large dinosaurs, but would not apply to small species or to babies" (See "Gigantothermy" under "Complications": http://www.geol.umd.edu/~tholtz/G104/lectures/104endo.html ).


Dishonorable Mention) The Lark Quarry Dinosaur Tracksite records neither a large theropod ( http://www.uq.edu.au/dinosaurs/documents/Romilio_Salisbury_2010.pdf ) nor a dinosaur stampede ( http://www.uq.edu.au/dinosaurs/documents/Romilio_et_al_2013.pdf ). Poropat's & Thulborn's DML posts ( http://comments.gmane.org/gmane.science.dinosaurs.general/56325 ) sum up my problems w/this hypothesis. However, this hypothesis didn't make the "Top 4" for 2 main reasons: 1) It's more recent than all of the aforementioned hypotheses; 2) It's already been dissected in the literature ( http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03115518.2013.748482?journalCode=talc20 ).

*E.g. It's implied that lone adult Komodo dragons can kill prey 10x their size w/"only ser- rated teeth", the logic being that lone adult Deinonychus would've done the same. However, it's been known since 2005 that the former are venomous ( http://www.academia.edu/462746/Early_evolution_of_the_venom_system_in_lizards_and_snakes ), hence why they can kill prey 10x their size. It's also implied, based on Horner & Dobb 1997, that the multiple Deinonychus individuals represented at YPM 64-75 were immature, the logic being that "larger (older) animals are more voracious cannibals than smaller (younger) animals, and smaller conspecifics are more often eaten than larger". However, Horner & Dobb 1997 is neither a peer-reviewed source nor points to a peer-reviewed source, & thus "the information is not likely to be useful" ( http://anthropology.ua.edu/bindon/ant570/pap_rule.htm ). AFAIK, the only relevant peer-reviewed source is Ostrom 1969 (according to which there is no "evidence of immature individuals at this site": http://peabody.yale.edu/sites/default/files/documents/scientific-publications/ypmB30_1969.pdf ).
Quoting Maxwell ( http://www.naturalhistorymag.com/htmlsite/master.html?http://www.naturalhistorymag.com/htmlsite/1299/1299_feature.html ): "Laid out in its death pose at this new site was a beautifully preserved, near-complete specimen of a young Tenontosaurus. Four Deinonychus teeth were found alongside the bones; later, in the laboratory, seven more teeth were uncovered. It's possible that a few more teeth were missed in the field or unwittingly discarded during preparation because they were concealed within small lumps of rock. So we have a subadult Tenontosaurus no more than fourteen feet long (compared with a length of about twenty feet for the adult at the Shrine site), preserved with at least eleven Deinonychus teeth.
But how can we distinguish between the remains of a victim hunted down and devoured by a pack and an animal that simply died and was scavenged by a few passing Deinonychus? As is the case at the Shrine site, this Tenontosaurus was preserved where it died. After death, the desiccation of the abundant supporting tendons that line the vertebrae of the neck and tail cause these parts to coil. The tail of Tenontosaurus, which accounts for about one-third of the animal's total length, is particularly heavy with supporting tendons. In this specimen, the pronounced curvature of the tail and the neck toward each other effectively counters any claim that the bones were carried to the site by water currents. The Deinonychus teeth were found in the region of the abdomen and pelvis, suggesting that the predators lost their teeth while feeding on the viscera. Most modern carnivores begin with the areas around the anus and abdomen when they feast on freshly killed prey, and it's likely that carnivorous dinosaurs did the same.
The number of teeth indicate that more than one Deinonychus was involved with the carcass. Like all other theropod dinosaurs, Deinonychus shed and replaced teeth throughout its life. The teeth would fall out upon the animal's reaching maturity but also could be wrenched out earlier by the stress associated with the biting and tearing of flesh. Because of this, theropod teeth are very common in sediments containing dinosaur fossils. The teeth from this site vary from recently erupted to fully mature ones. Given that Deinonychus had only sixty teeth in its jaws at any one time, it's unlikely that all eleven were wrenched from the mouth of just one feeding animal. This would leave the Deinonychus toothless after five similar meals. The possibility that Deinonychus was replacing shed teeth in a few weeks or months, and therefore had the ability to sustain such dramatic tooth loss, was quashed by Greg Erickson, who, as a master's degree student at the Museum of the Rockies, worked on replacement rates of teeth in various dinosaurs and living reptiles. After CT-scanning portions of the lower jaw of Deinonychus and studying individual teeth, he came up with an estimate of 300 days for the time it took Deinonychus to replace a shed tooth with a mature one.
We know that this Tenontosaurus was not yet an adult, so it didn't die of old age. Of course, this doesn't rule out death from disease or injury and doesn't confirm that it was cut down by a pack, but it's a start. Next, we have a concentration of teeth around the abdomen and pelvis. This may indicate that the pack fed on the abdominal contents while they were still warm and moist. If, after the viscera had been consumed, the remainder of the carcass was scavenged over time by many individuals, we would expect a much more disturbed carcass and a wider scattering of teeth. Similarly, if the Tenontosaurus had been killed by a larger predator-such as the unknown owner of the three-inch-long serrated teeth that occasionally crop up in the Cloverly formation—then whatever remained of the carcass would have been strewn around the area."
Quoting Shugart ( http://www.amazon.com/Earthquake-Other-Tales-Unbalanced-Nature/dp/0300122705/ref=la_B001H6PV82_1_3_title_2_pap?ie=UTF8&qid=1357865237&sr=1-3 ): "When the Polynesians arrived in New Zealand, they encountered birds that had been evolving for 80 million years without the presence of mammalian predators. Among the most striking of these animals must have been the moas (Figure 29). These were gigantic wingless birds standing as much as 10 feet (3 m) tall and weighing as much as 550 pounds (250 kg).1 They are known from a diverse array of remains including eggshells, eggs, a few mummified carcasses, vast numbers of bones, and some older fossilized bone. The eleven moa species that are currently recognized occupied ecological niches customarily filled elsewhere by large mammalian browsing herbivores. They may have had relatively low reproductive rates; apparently, they usually laid only one egg at a time.2
Moas ranked in height from the tallest at about 10 feet to smaller species the size of a large domestic turkey (about 3 feet, or 1 m, tall and weighing 45 pounds, or 20 kg). They were unique in having neither wings nor even residual wing bones. As one expects of large birds that feed on vegetable matter, moas had muscular gizzards. They swallowed small stones up to 2 inches (50 mm) in diameter into their gizzards for grinding food before digestion. These polished stones, called gastroliths, often occur in groups along with moa bones.3
Many gastroliths have been found in what are now human-modified grassy habitats, giving the initial impression that moas were grass-eating animals. But the present vegetation at a site may not be its previous vegetation.4 Based on preserved crop contents from mummified specimens, moas fed on leaves, seeds, and green twigs of trees and parts of shrubs.5 Thus, it appears that they were creatures of the forest and shrub- land—more like browsing deer than grazing cows."

Monday, June 2, 2014

A more detailed look at The Paleoart of Julius Csotonyi

Sorry to anyone waiting for this more in depth review. I've had a really bad 1.5 weeks at work.

Without further delay, I give you my more elongated review of The Paleoart of Julius Csotonyi.

Summary:

A fantastic popular Palaeoart volume, that delivers huge amounts of top notch palaeoart.
 Fantastic for especially young up and coming palaeo nuts, as a huge amount of modern palaeo findings and thinking are communicated through pictures (with supplementary text if needed). 

Might be a let down for those seeking a super technical volume. Again this is a nice coffee table book full of prehistoric beast pictures. Does have some good science, but doesn't go into detail.


So let's start with the book itself. Simply put it is gorgeous. It is large, with amazing cover art, is well bound, and made from high quality paper. It is not a huge volume, at 156 pages, but it is tightly packed with art.

The art itself consists of a great deal of Mr. Csotonyi portfolio. I haven't counted the precise number of pieces, but it is close to 150 (given there is an average of at least 1 piece of art per page). What makes this a treat is many of these pieces are his museum commissions, that for the most part have not been published anywhere outside the institute they were created for. Further there were several pieces Mr. Csotonyi created specifically for this book, making them brand new!

The pictures are printed in high quality and for the most part translate into print incredibly well. However the odd print darkening does betray Mr. Csotonyi's digital painting matted on photographs technique once and a while, and causes the critters to really stand out from the background. I personally, working in pure digital myself, sympathize having had my own printing battles with darkening. However for a purist that might find this jarring, check it out before buying if you are more picky. I don't think it ruins these pieces, but it is slightly noticeable is why I mention it.  


The volume is divided by time period, organizing the organisms and environments very roughly by their era. Overall the book is overwhelmingly Mesozoic, and specifically Dinosaurs (though the sample pictures Titan Books sent when I requested some, do not reflect this ;p ).

It is not text heavy, but I think that is to the book's strength. When the book says it is THE palaeoart of an artist, I want the palaeoart ;). That said there is what I'd say is almost the perfect amount of writing to give the art context.

You get two introductions by doctors David Evans and Robert Bakker, an interview with Mr. Csotonyi about his art and science philosophy (including some interesting side tangents about his interest in Xenobiology), descriptive blurbs for each piece of art, the occasional testimonial of professional palaeontologist's about Mr. Csotonyi's art in general or a specific piece, and even a few making of's for some of the pieces of art.

For those of you who wanted a very technical volume on the research or making of the art, are probably going to be disappointed. It is a perfectly targeted popular book, and while none of the information inside will be a surprise to palaeo enthusiasts, it is nice to have all this current nearly cut edge art and science in one volume.

Here I come to my (what I think is) unique take home on this book. If I were to recommend it to anyone, I'd say this is a key book to give to any palaeo enthusiast kids you might know. Immediately this book is devoid of any palaeo-memes, and is all art based on current research. So younger "readers" will be exposed to something a lot more cutting edge then the standard kids Dino book. The text that is presented with the pictures is short, and simple enough kids can get more info from if they want it.

However let's face it, most kids love Dinosaur picture books. Not only does this book feature scientifically accurate work, but has way more material then your average Dinosaur kids book. I can't see how this would be a flop for the up and coming palaeontologist in your life.


I can't think of anything else that needs saying. If you like this website, I can't see how you'd dislike this book.

I hope we keep getting more of these volumes for different artists.

So head to your nearest bookstore and enjoy ;)

Monday, May 19, 2014

Good, Semi-good, and Bad Dino Sources: Part 2

Hi everybody,

This post is the 2nd part in the "Good, Semi-good, and Bad Dino Sources" series. If you haven't read the 1st part ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2013/03/good-semi-good-and-bad-dino-sources.html ), I recommend reading it b/c it explains how said series works. If you have read the 1st part, I recommend re-reading it b/c I've since modified it to be more explanatory. 2 more things of note: 1) Some complained that some of the sources were miscategorized as semi-good/bad, so in addition to making the 1st part more explanatory, I reconsidered & recategorized 1 of its semi-good sources as good in this post (Many thanks to Mike Keesey for that); 2) Some also complained that too much attention was given to the semi-good/bad sources & not enough to the good sources, so I made sure to reverse that trend in this post.

Cheers,
Herman Diaz

Good

To paraphrase Switek ( http://scienceblogs.com/laelaps/2008/04/07/paleontological-profiles-rober/ ), Bakker ("Robert T. Bakker Ph.D.": http://www.hmns.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=88&Itemid=94 ) is not only "a working paleontologist" (He led/leads the Dinosaur Renaissance/HMNS paleontology field program, respectively), but also 1 of the most "effective popularizers of science": His older popular work "inspired many young paleontologists and spun off numerous artistic clones" ( http://openpaleo.blogspot.com/2010/11/book-review-princeton-field-guide-to.html ); His newer popular work includes some of the "best dinosaur books for kids" ( http://www.xiaohuasheng.cn/view_45082.html ); He also blogs ( https://blog.hmns.org/author/bbakker/ ), lectures ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHJMOgzbI3w ), curates exhibitions ( http://www.hmns.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=336&Itemid=371 ), & appears in documentaries ( http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/secrets-of-the-dinosaur-mummy/ ).

If Audubon had done digital artwork, I bet it would've looked something like that of either Martyniuk ("Matthew P. Martyniuk": http://mpm.panaves.com/ ) or Willoughby ("Emily Willoughby Art": http://emilywilloughby.com/ ), both of whom are paleoartists who 1) specialize in reconstructing feathered dinos, & 2) have a major internet presence: The "Raptor Attack" trope includes links to their websites ("For good examples of accurate deinonychosaur portrayals, see these websites": http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RaptorAttack ); Naish's "Historical ornithology 101, a Tet Zoo Guide" features their artwork front & center ("Birds are dinosaurs, and 'birdiness'…evolved in theropod dinosaurs before the origin of birds": http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/tetrapod-zoology/2013/07/06/historical-ornithology-101-a-tet-zoo-guide/ ); The latter is especially fitting b/c Martyniuk's "Anchiornis huxleyi" & Willoughby's "Mei long is Not Always Sleeping" remind me of Audubon's "Wild Turkey, male" ( http://www.rare-prints.com/Oppenheimer/Watercolors/Wild%20Turkey,%20male.htm ) & "Wild Turkey, female and young" ( http://www.rare-prints.com/Oppenheimer/Watercolors/Wild%20Turkey,%20female.htm ), respectively.

Like Cau, Mortimer ("The Theropod Database": http://archosaur.us/theropoddatabase/ ) is a consistently good source of phylogenetic info for the enthusiast (See "The Theropod Database Blog")/the specialist (See "Phylogeny of Theropoda" through "Evaluating Phylogenetic Analyses"). Unlike Cau, Mortimer doesn't consistently cover other biological info & thus doesn't have Cau's "hit-&-miss" problem (See "Semi-good" for what I mean: http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2013/03/good-semi-good-and-bad-dino-sources.html ).

Sampson ("Scott D. Sampson": http://www.scottsampson.net/ ) & Switek ("Brian Switek": http://brianswitek.com/ ) are both paleontologists (professional & amateur, respectively) & popularizers of science who specialize in putting dinos into an evolutionary & ecological context: As you may remember, I really like popular dino books that do that ( http://www.amazon.com/review/R2URWS93D4PO4C/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=184442183X&channel=detail-glance&nodeID=283155&store=books ); See "Item Mentality and Dinosaurs in Popular Science" ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpJjOwKh6RY ) & "Alternatives to the Item Mentality in Dinosaur Books and Art" ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GkAXXUCjYHs ) for why it's important that popular dino books do that. You could say that 1) Sampson's the new Carl Sagan w/"Dinosaur Odyssey" basically being a dino-centric version of "Cosmos" (See the Orr quote), & 2) Switek's the new John Noble Wilford w/"My Beloved Brontosaurus" basically being an updated version of "The Riddle of the Dinosaur" (See the Wilford quote).

WitmerLab ("Witmer's Lab and Research": http://www.oucom.ohiou.edu/dbms-witmer/lab.htm ) is the ultimate source of dino anatomy info. Liebendorfer's "Digital Dinosaurs: How do scientists reconstruct the anatomy of ancient beasts?" ( http://www.ohio.edu/research/communications/witmer.cfm ) sums up why.

Semi-good

Benton ("Professor Mike Benton - Earth Sciences": http://www.bristol.ac.uk/earthsciences/people/mike-j-benton/ ) & Brusatte ("Stephen Brusatte, Paleontology Research": https://sites.google.com/site/brusatte/ ) are consistently good sources for the specialist (E.g. "Dinosaur Paleobiology": http://www.amazon.com/Dinosaur-Paleobiology-Stephen-L-Brusatte/dp/0470656581/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1387662017&sr=1-1 ). However, they're also consistently not-so-good sources for casual readers/the enthusiast (E.g. "Dinosaurs": http://www.amazon.com/Dinosaurs-Steve-Brusatte/dp/1847244173/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1387662069&sr=1-4 ).*

You could say Don Lessem ("Dino Don Inc.": http://www.dinodon.com/index.htm ) is the Don Bluth of dinos: Bluth's pre-1990 work is mostly good, while his post-1990 work is mostly not-so-good; The same goes for Lessem's pre- & post-2000 work, respectively. As you may remember, I reviewed the best of his pre-2000 work & the worst of his post-2000 work ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2014/04/my-3rd-pair-of-reviews_21.html ). Compared to the former, the latter fails to cover many dino-related subjects & those that are covered are done so in an insufficient manner (I.e. Sometimes, the text simplifies things to the point of being meaningless; Other times, the text is just plain wrong).**

Bad

I hate to say it, but neither Blasing ("Dinosaur George Company") nor Dixon ("Welcome to Dougal Dixon's Website") can be taken seriously as "dinosaur experts": The problem w/Blasing "is that he is impersonating a professional in the field, and in the process, he is misleading the public when he talks so matter of factly about some of his subjects" ( http://reptilis.net/2008/09/14/jfc-lockjaw/ ); Similarly, "Dixon has a superfi-cial understanding of dinosaur and pterosaur biology, and of their actual evolutionary patterns- i. e. he is not familiar with the technical literature, a necessity since the popular literature re-mains incomplete and sometimes obsolete...In addition, he wants to make archosaurs more mammalian than is appropriate" ( http://www.gspauldino.com/Tertiary.pdf ). I say "I hate to say it" b/c, based on what I've read, both Blasing & Dixon are nice guys.*** I can't say the same about the other bad sources (E.g. Dr. Pterosaur/Doug Dobney & Gwawinapterus/Johnfaa are trolls &/or cyberbullies; See "Bad" for how: http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2013/03/good-semi-good-and-bad-dino-sources.html ).

*Naish's "All Yesterdays Book Launch Talk" ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5RG0yLeJE_U ) sums up what I mean.

**E.g. Compare the definition of "amphibians" in "Dinosaur Worlds" ("vertebrate animals...that lay their eggs in water but usually spend their adult life on land") to that of "AMPHIBIAN" in "The Ultimate Dinopedia" ("animal that is able to live both on land and in water").

***Miller's "Interview with Dinosaur George Blasing" ( http://empyricaltales.blogspot.com/2013/11/interview-with-dinosaur-george-blasing.html#.UsUgIf1SE4Y ) & Bonnan's "Now the circle is complete -or- a belated dinosaur Christmas gift" ( http://matthewbonnan.wordpress.com ), respectively, sum up what I mean.
Quoting Orr ( http://chasmosaurs.blogspot.com/2010/02/dinosaur-odyssey-review.html ): "Sampson is clearly aiming for a Sagan-like position as a popularizer of science, and his prose owes a definite debt to the revered astronomer There are stylistic debts, such as the phrase "in a very real sense," the very real meaning of which I don't know. More importantly, he seems to have been influenced by Sagan's efforts to help his fellow Earthlings understand their precarious place in this huge universe. There is no Dawkinsish acidity here, no baiting of anti-science pundits. The image presented is positive and accessible, tying in with his job as host of the PBS kids cartoon Dinosaur Train. One of the great revelations in my life was that what's happening under my feet is as interesting as what's happening around me. Dinosaur Odyssey, with its easily understood illustrations of the networks that make ecosystems work, has the potential to open plenty of eyes to that reality. This book should be in schools."
Quoting Wilford ( http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/25/science/my-beloved-brontosaurus-millions-of-years-gone-but-still-evolving.html?_r=1& ): "Other books have dealt with new dinosaur research, but like museum exhibits on the subject, they quickly become outdated. This may be the one book for catching up on what has become of the dinosaurs you thought you knew from grade school. Mr. Switek and his brontosaur spiritual sidekick take you to dig sites, museums and laboratories to experience the rapid changes in dinosaur paleontology. His account is spiced with history of bone wars in the American West, odd facts and asides. For example, there is no such thing as an intercostal clavicle, the bone Cary Grant is frantically searching for in “Bringing Up Baby.”"

Sunday, May 18, 2014

No, THIS is the biggest dinosaur!

Stop the presses. There is literally a new record-breaker on the block. Bigger than Argentinosaurus. Possibly bigger than even Puertasaurus, Ruyangosaurus and Alamosaurus. Some of these new giants (yes, there's a whole herd of them found, in VERY good condition) have nearly 10-foot long femurs.

It's a titanosaur to be sure, from Argentina. I suspect based on the femur proportions that this species is a lognkosaur. That sharp lateral bulge very high on the femur gives it away. If anyone wants to illustrate this species, that's the group I'd look at for reference. Quite a challenge!

But rather than steal the thunder I will let the pictures do the talking. Check out my blog for much more detail: http://paleoking.blogspot.com/2014/05/record-smashing-titanosaur-just.html