Tetrapod Zoology

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It’s my birthday this week (the 26th), so how timely that that most long-awaited of books – Tom Holtz and Luis Rey’s Dinosaurs should arrive this morning (Holtz 2007). This huge, lavishly illustrated work – it’s one of those volumes that will get called ‘the ultimate dinosaur book’ a lot – has been in the pipeline for, I dunno, months and months and months, and I’m very pleased to see the final finished version. After visiting Luis and seeing some of the artwork he was preparing for the volume (see his thoughts here), I previously blogged about it (at ver 1) here and here. The official release date, I understand, is October 23rd, but it’s obtainable via Amazon already (here). At the risk of doing some high-PR advertising for two of my friends, I feel the urge to blog about it…

The most interesting thing is that – while written by one of the world’s leading technical experts on dinosaurs, and containing a great deal of information that professional palaeontologists will enjoy seeing in a book – this is not a technical volume, but a popular one that’s written with kids and interested lay-adults in mind. Do not let that put you off if you’re already a level-5 dinosaur uber-geek: Tom Holtz himself is self-proclaimed ‘King of the Dino Geeks’ (it says so on the dustcover) so rest assured that he’s included a lot of new stuff that is entertaining and informative. In other words, it should have the broadest possible appeal.

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The idea that such an immense (426 pp.), well-designed and comprehensive volume is aimed at the popular market is a big deal, and those of us interested in science education and the dissemination of scientific knowledge will be bigging this volume up for all it’s worth I feel. Tom’s text is easy and fun to read, and he takes every opportunity to use catchy titles and appropriate ‘common names’ for dinosaurs and their adaptations. It’s also clear that Tom was including stuff pretty much up to the last minute, as he managed to get the basal therizinosauroid Falcarius, the carcharodontosaurid Mapusaurus, and others, in there. The volume ends with a dinosaur genus list: this is a table that extends for nearly 50 pages, and includes data on body size, etymology and affinities. Yikes. Having produced such things for kid’s books I know what a headache they are – they also get outdated very quickly, so an online up-to-date version is provided too [in the adjacent photo, I'm standing in the Luis Rey wing of Tet Zoo towers. Yes, that's a Rey original hanging on the wall].

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Never before has such a vast assortment of Luis Rey artwork appeared in one volume, as far as I know. There are hundreds of new pieces by Luis here: bold, colourful, innovative and often depicting dinosaurs that you might not have seen illustrated before, including Zalmoxes, Lurdusaurus, Olorotitan, Brachytrachelopan, Buitreraptor, Guanlong, Zupaysaurus, a very spiky-looking Agustinia, and others. In the main, taxonomically-arranged section of the book, each section opens with a whole-page montage depicting several members of the group. These pictures are neat: the adjacent pic shows the one fronting the oviraptorosaur-therizinosauroid section of the book.

Some of the art is really innovative and fun. In an Early Cretaceous North American wood, an angry Astrodon picks up a Utahraptor by its tail; the latter is not amused. Fans of Luis’ art might have seen an older piece that depicts the same event, but with an altogether different look (Rey 2001, p. 26). I am personally quite fond of the white furry Leallynasaura and menacing snowbeast-like theropod that is pursuing it.

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Scattered throughout the book are one-page articles by other palaeontologists, with contributions on specific clades, on biogeography and palaeobiology. I managed to get something in there… it’s a bit out of date now (pachycephalosaurs in Europe? Oh dear), but what the hey. Anyway, while this article obviously isn’t a proper review of the volume, I wanted to say at least something in celebration of its appearance, and I hope at least some of you can share my enthusiasm. Well done Tom and Luis (when’s the party by the way?) – I’m amazed and awed at such a stunningly comprehensive and attractive volume. We live in a golden age of books on dinosaurs and their contemporaries: I sometimes lament the speed at which new volumes appear (argh, the cost), but my god it’s worth the pain.

So there we have it. What with all the post-conference stuff, I still have to get Tet Zoo back to normal. Am aiming to post SVPCA stuff next, but within a short while I want to get back to normality: articles on beluwhals, weird salamanders, obscure theropods, Mesozoic marine reptiles, and all that. For those worrying about that strange skin I posted a while back (particularly Noni Mausa and arachnophile Heather), don’t worry… I’ll get to it eventually. Great, late for work again.

Refs – -

Holtz, T. R. 2007. Dinosaurs. Random House, New York.

Rey, L. V. 2001. Extreme Dinosaurs. Chronicle Books, San Francisco.

Comments

  1. #1 SteveF
    September 24, 2007

    Sigh, another addition to my ever expanding Amazon wishlist!

  2. #2 Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
    September 24, 2007

    Thanks for the kind words! It has definitely been a labor of love…

    I’m in the midst of preparing the Supplementary Information website to include updates, a revised table, etc.

    Thanks also for the sidebar! We’ll try and get signatures from all the participants at SVP, and auction off a copy.

  3. #3 Scott
    September 24, 2007

    Argh! I’ve had mine on Amazon pre-order for months and they still haven’t shipped it. I may have to send them a Surly Email(TM) inquiring as to the location of my copy.

    Anyways, thanks for making the wait more difficult Darren!

  4. #4 Zach Miller
    September 24, 2007

    Wow. Sounds like a must-buy. I’m a huge fan of Rey’s Dinosaur Field Guide, so an entire book illustrated by the man and written by an actual paleontologist (and taxonomist!) rather than a popular author makes me salivate even more.

  5. #5 Jason
    September 24, 2007

    As someone who was out of the loop for far too long and is now trying to re-educated himself on the current state of dinosaur paleontology, this looks to be exactly the kind of book I’ve been looking for. Thanks Darren!

  6. #6 Michael P. Taylor
    September 24, 2007

    Guess who just got a completely unexpected review copy of this through the post? (It’s me, in case you weren’t sure.)

    I have to second everything Darren’s said — it’s near impossible to speak too highly of this book. Yes it’s accessible to kids, but it’s full of meaty nourishment: the first kids’ book I’ve ever seen, for example, with a chapter on cladistics. And — unlike, say The Dinosauria 2nd ed., this one has three chapters on sauropods (basal, diplodocoid and macronarian) rather then the usual single chapter. Plenty has been said about Luis’s artwork already, but it really is a gorgeous antidote to the dinosaur pictures we grew up with — and, yes, the Astrodon biting the Utahraptor is my favourite :-)

    I would have killed for this book when I was nine. Luckily for me, I have a nine-year-old son who’ll be able to appreciate it, which is the next best thing.

    Finally, my hearty congratulations to Tom and Luis.

  7. #7 Mike
    September 24, 2007

    Off to do groceries now, but I know what I’ll be ordering when I get home.

    BTW, anyone here know of any book on whale evolution that approaches Unwin’s Pterosaur book?

  8. #8 Aaron Kralik
    September 24, 2007

    Happy Birthday, mine is on the 25th

  9. #9 Darren Naish
    September 25, 2007

    Mike wrote..

    BTW, anyone here know of any book on whale evolution that approaches Unwin’s Pterosaur book?

    I’m sorry to say there is no such book. There are a few technical volumes that (all too briefly) review cetacean evolution, including…

    Berta, A. & Sumich, J. L. 1999. Marine Mammals: Evolutionary Biology. Academic Press (San Diego), pp. 494.

    … but nothing written for a popular or semi-popular audience. There is, by the way, David Rains Wallace’s Neptune’s Ark (University of California Press) but I haven’t seen it yet.

  10. #10 Laelaps
    September 25, 2007

    My landlord probably wouldn’t mind if I came up $24.00 short this month, right? Then again, I’m not sure “But I need it!” would be a valid explanation if I were pressed. This looks like an absolutely stunning book and I can’t wait to get my hands on it; there are so many dinosaur encyclopedias out there they could make up a small library in-and-of themselves, but this one looks like the best yet. Thanks for sharing this with us, Darren.

  11. #11 Neil
    September 26, 2007

    Hmm this book looks like a cndiate to sneek on to the list of textbooks I have to buy for my course. Thankd for the heads up.

    Also, off topic, did you hear about the bird eating giant noctule bats? They hunt migrating birds in their migration routes in the mediterranean

    [from Darren: go here]

  12. #12 Steve Bodio
    September 27, 2007

    Seems like it has been on my Amazon list forever– at last! Give my best to Luis.

    Now about those monster pigeons…

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