Steve's Herpetological Blog

An insight into the life of Steve, his research and the many books he reads

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#StevesLibrary: The Dinosaurs Rediscovered

As a six-year-old, there was nothing that captivated me more than dinosaurs. This obsession always seems to take hold at the moment in time, I’m also sure that most people have had a similar experience (who doesn’t love a good dinosaur?!). Last year I read the Tyrannosaur Chronicles by David Hone and more recently finished The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs by Steve Brusatte. The Dinosaurs Rediscovered had been sitting on my bookcase for a while and I thought it was time it moved to the ‘read’ pile, so I began reading it. After reading the previous two books on dinosaurs, I was expecting a lot of overlap but to me, all three are complimentary to one another, helping to fill the gaps on different aspects of dinosaur biology and evolution.

What sets The Dinosaurs Rediscovered apart from the others is that it is less about the dinosaurs themselves and more how palaeontology keeps evolving to answer more and more complex questions. Whilst these discoveries are still reliant on digging up bones and other fossils, the techniques available to the average palaeontologist are far more advanced than those even 30 years ago. Some of these developments have of course been driven by the surge in computing power, which allows scientists to model and crunch huge datasets, which normally wouldn’t be possible. This has allowed palaeontologists to produce the most up-to-date family trees of dinosaurs, based on morphological characteristics. Using tools borrowed from other disciplines, we’ve been able to unlock the secrets of the strength of dinosaur skulls and established how much force they could handle, before they shattered. This can be helpful in determining the biteforce of predators and help shed some light on their ecology. Most exciting to me, is that recent developments have also allowed us to discover the colour of dinosaurs from the very fossils they have been described, who needs a DeLorean eh?

The other thing I like about The Dinosaurs Rediscovered, is that it is copiously illustrated. Who doesn’t love a book with some pictures in it? The wonderful thing is, the photos are split between reconstructions of the dinosaurs mentioned in the text and scientific illustrations, that accompany the narrative Benton shares along the way through this book. Palaeontology has changed dramatically within the academic lifetime of Benton and it continues to do so, however, I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in science or palaeontology. Benton mentions the people involved with the discoveries, which helps give it that more personal touch, allowing you to connect with the great minds that have turned the world of palaeontology upside down. Whilst it took me a little longer to read The Dinosaurs Rediscovered than I had planned, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and I admire Benton’s writing style. Someone please remind to read more of his popular science work in the near future!

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