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 JD-man's Serious Dino Books/Dino-Related Reviews!

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Sickle_Claw
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PostSubject: Re: JD-man's Serious Dino Books/Dino-Related Reviews!   JD-man's Serious Dino Books/Dino-Related Reviews! - Page 3 Icon_minitimeFri Dec 25, 2020 2:35 pm

Have you read/reviewed this one?

Gorgon: Paleontology, Obsession, and the Greatest Catastrophe in Earth's History by Peter Ward.

I got it as a gift for Christmas but am seeing mixed reviews, with some saying it's more of a 'road trip' book then going into the science. What do you think?

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Read my Story Jurassic Park: Chaos Theory!
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JD-man
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PostSubject: Re: JD-man's Serious Dino Books/Dino-Related Reviews!   JD-man's Serious Dino Books/Dino-Related Reviews! - Page 3 Icon_minitimeSat Jan 02, 2021 7:10 am

@Sickle_Claw

Sorry, but I've never read that book.
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JD-man
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PostSubject: Re: JD-man's Serious Dino Books/Dino-Related Reviews!   JD-man's Serious Dino Books/Dino-Related Reviews! - Page 3 Icon_minitimeSat Jan 02, 2021 7:10 am

My 71st review for this thread is a positive 1 for Dixon's The Big Book of Dinosaurs: A Natural History of the Prehistoric World. If you haven't already, I'd greatly appreciate you reading & voting "Helpful" for said review in the bolded link below. Besides wanting to make sure said review gives a good idea of what to expect, it needs all the "Helpful" votes it can get because it's for a great book that deserves more attention. Many thanks in advance.

Dixon's best dino book ( https://www.amazon.com/review/R2PUKOSQNJNGTF/ref=cm_cr_srp_d_rdp_perm?ie=UTF8 ): 5/5

Short version: Dixon's The Big Book of Dinosaurs: A Natural History of the Prehistoric World (henceforth BB) is definitely his best (& maybe only very-good-to-great) dino book. I recommend reading BB in conjunction with other, more recent books (E.g. Naish/Barrett's Dinosaurs: How They Lived and Evolved).

Long version: Read on.

Based on what I've read, Dixon is a nice guy ( https://matthewbonnan.wordpress.com/2013/12/26/now-the-circle-is-complete-or-a-belated-dinosaur-christmas-gift/ ), but a bad source of dino info. In fact, to quote GSPaul ( http://gspauldino.com/Tertiary.pdf ), "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". With that in mind, I was both worried & surprised by BB: Worried that it'd be terrible, that it'd give natural histories of dinos a bad name, & that I'd have to review it as such; Surprised that I didn't know about it sooner, that it's as great as it is, & that it's so underrated. In this review, I list the 3 main reasons why I think BB is as great as it is.

1) BB is very well-organized: Most natural histories of dinos have a chronological or day-in-the-life format; This makes sense given that they're the easiest & best ways to tell the story of dinos, respectively; However, as far as I know, BB is the only natural history of dinos with an ecological format; After the introductory chapters (which summarize how ecology works & how dinos evolved), BB consists of 12 chapters, each of which focuses on a different trophic group (high browsers, low browsers & grazers, big-game hunters, small-game hunters, egg-eaters, scavengers, fish-eaters, marine reptiles, flying reptiles, birds & mammals) plus unsolved mysteries & the reconstruction process. I especially like how BB's organization reminds me of some natural histories of modern animals (E.g. Attenborough's The Life of Mammals). With that in mind, you'd think it'd be a more common way to put dinos into an evolutionary & ecological context, but I digress.

2) BB was mostly accurate at the time of publication. This is especially apparent in its T.rex-related text: 1st, see the Dixon quote; Then, compare it to the T.rex-related text in "Vintage Dinosaur Art: The Age of Dinosaurs: A Photographic Record" & "Vintage Dinosaur Art: Dinosaurs: Questions & Answers", which are reviews of Dixon dino books published shortly before & after BB, respectively; As you may remember, even some expert-authored books from around the same time got the same info wrong ( https://www.amazon.com/review/R1XKIJYJI2F8YU/ref=cm_cr_srp_d_rdp_perm?ie=UTF8 ). I say "mostly" because there are a few weird bits in the text (E.g. Ankylosaurus =/= 35 ft), but that's still pretty impressive for a Dixon dino book.

3) BB is very well-illustrated. Remember what I said about Sibbick's When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth work compared to his later work (See reason #1: https://www.amazon.com/review/RJ6H99FGIW6CC/ref=cm_cr_srp_d_rdp_perm?ie=UTF8 )? The same mostly goes for Kirk's BB work compared to his later work. However, Kirk's 1989 work was even more accurate for its time than Sibbick's 1985 work was for its time. Also, while I wouldn't describe the former as gritty, I would describe it as atmospheric, so much so that it reminds me of Douglas Henderson's paleoart. Kirk's Stenonychosaurus is an especially good example of that, partly because it's standing against a beautiful sunset, & partly because it has that look that birds have when they know they're being watched. Kirk's head-butting Pachycephalosaurus are another good example, partly because of how they're colored (I.e. Green & blue like Henderson's Saurolophus), & partly because of how they're wincing from the impact (as opposed to being wide-eyed like other, similar life reconstructions). You can see both dinos in Vincent's BB review ( https://chasmosaurs.com/tag/big-book-of-dinosaurs/ ). 1 more thing of note: As mentioned by Vincent, Kirk's life reconstructions are "nicely complimented by [David Nicholls'] pretty modern-looking" skeletal reconstructions.

Quoting Dixon:
Quote :
The accolade of the biggest and most ferocious hunter that ever lived has always been given to the enormous tyrannosaurid Tyrannosaurus. Some 40 feet...long it was, towering almost 20 feet...high and weighing 7 tons. The skull was 4 feet...long and bore teeth like steak knives. The bones of the skull were quite loosely articulated, so that the skull could flex and allow the animal to swallow huge chunks of meat. Yet in the 1960s some research was done that suggested that this beast could not have been as active and ferocious as it appeared. The shape of the hips seems to show that it could have taken only very short steps and must have moved at a speed of only about 3 miles...per hour. The teeth seem to have been more adapted to slashing up dead meat that to killing live animals. All this suggests that mighty Tyrannosaurus was actually a scavenger, not a hunter.
On the other hand, the eyes of Tyrannosaurus were positioned so that they could focus forward. Only hunting animals have eyes like this, since this arrangement gives a three-dimensional image and allows distances to be judged accurately. The skull and neck were very robust, suggesting that they were built to withstand the shock of delivering killing blows.
All in all, it looks as if Tyrannosaurus was a hunter after all. It may have hidden in undergrowth and ambushed duckbills, killing them with a blow of its wide-open mouth. However, an old Tyrannosaurus may have been too slow and heavy for this kind of action and lived as a scavenger, feeding on the corpses of animals that were already dead.
Tyrannosaurus had ridiculously small arms, with only two fingers. They could not possibly have been used in any killing or eating function. They were probably used to help the huge animal to get to its feet after resting on its belly. A massive foot on the end of the pubis bone in its hips and a set of extra ribs along the belly suggest that it spent much of its time lying on the ground. This may have been its customary eating position. When it rose to its feet it would have done so by straightening its huge hind legs. The little arms would have prevented it from sliding along onto its face while it did so.
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PostSubject: Re: JD-man's Serious Dino Books/Dino-Related Reviews!   JD-man's Serious Dino Books/Dino-Related Reviews! - Page 3 Icon_minitimeSun Jan 03, 2021 7:42 am

My 72nd review for this thread is a negative 1 for Dixon's If Dinosaurs Were Alive Today. If you haven't already, I'd greatly appreciate you reading & voting "Helpful" for said review in the bolded link below. Besides wanting to make sure said review gives a good idea of what to expect, it needs all the "Helpful" votes it can get because it's outnumbered by opposing reviews (which don't give a good idea of what to expect). Many thanks in advance.

Dixon's worst dino book ( https://www.amazon.com/review/R2906RZLY2I88D/ref=cm_cr_srp_d_rdp_perm?ie=UTF8 ): 1/5

Dixon's If Dinosaurs Were Alive Today (henceforth ID) may be his worst dino book. The ID reviews of Vincent ( https://chasmosaurs.blogspot.com/2011/11/not-vintage-dinosaur-art-if-dinosaurs.html ) & Babbletrish ( http://babbletrish.blogspot.com/2012_05_01_archive.html ) sum up why. In this review, I point you to said reviews & add my own thoughts as well:
-Not only is ID full of "eye-bleedingly awful CGI and Photoshoppery", but also shameless rip-offs of more famous reconstructions. These include the Walking With Dinosaurs Plateosaurus, Seismosaurus (= Diplodocus), T.rex, Coelophysis, Liopleurodon, Cryptoclidus, & Quetzalcoatlus (which is quite coincidental, given that Benton consulted both WWD & ID).*
-Speaking of WWD's Liopleurodon, ID didn't just rip-off its appearance, but also its impossibly-large (25 m) size. To quote Martill/Naish (See Walking with Dinosaurs: The Evidence), "this size created much debate in palaeontological circles following the first airing of the programme, as no palaeontologist thinks Liopleurodon really got this big...Although several complete skeletons have been discovered, these are individuals of between 5 and 10 metres in length." Google "Liopleurodon - Plesiosaur Directory" for everything else we currently know about Liopleurodon.
-In reference to "the probably unintentional underlying theme of [ID]: modern day mammals are just better at everything", Dinosaurs! magazine did something similar, but at least then some thought went into the kind of environment & interspecies interactions ( https://chasmosaurs.blogspot.com/2012/01/vintage-dinosaur-art-yet-more-dinosaurs.html ). As far as I can tell, no such thought went into ID. This is especially apparent in the Archaeopteryx & Baryonyx sections: For 1, Archaeopteryx was a poor flier compared to most modern birds; It might as well be a flock of chickens mobbing that eagle; & don't get me started on that poorly-photoshopped lizard; For another, Baryonyx was subtropical, yet is depicted in a temperate zone; It'd be like finding coconuts in Mercia (See Monty Python and the Holy Grail).
-As expected for a Dixon dino book, ID is both textually & visually inaccurate. Even if you only read the fact files, you'll see that there's an average of at least 5 factual errors per page in ID, a 96-page book. This is especially apparent in the T.rex fact file.**
-As you may remember, I generally dislike the dino Q&A genre for 3 main reasons: 1) Redundant questions; 2) Vague answers; 3) Bad Q&As (I.e. Stupid or misleading questions & misleading or wrong answers). ID does all that & MUCH more (See "No. Unless You Count Birds." in Babbletrish's ID review).

*To quote Naish ( http://web.archive.org/web/20160917075952/http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/tetrapod-zoology/great-dinosaur-art-event-of-2012/ ), "There are good consultants, but there are downright useless consultants". There are MANY examples of Benton being "downright useless" as a consultant of popular dino books (E.g. Johnson's Dino Wars: https://www.amazon.com/review/R2FFY9S77ANRTK/ref=cm_cr_srp_d_rdp_perm?ie=UTF8 ), but ID may be the best example.

**It's claimed that "about 20 [T.rex] specimens have been found in total" (More like 45), that T.rex lived 74 MYA (It didn't), that the earliest tyrannosaurids lived "during the Jurassic period" (They didn't), & that the earliest tyrannosaurids were turkey-sized (More like horse-sized). It's also worth mentioning that, under "Fossil Finds", Dixon ignores Saskatchewan, Colorado, Utah, & New Mexico.
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