Up to Date Dinosaur Science for the People

Dinosaurs are on the agenda for this month. Specifically, Kings of Creation by Don Lessem, Simon and Schuster, 1992. This has recently been re released under a different title, Dinosaurs Rediscovered, in paperback. The hardbound version lists for $25.00, the soft cover edition for $12.00. The 6 * 9 format volume comes in at 367 pages.

The author is the founder of The Dinosaur Society, a non profit organization begun to help the general public obtain the latest scientifically correct information about dinosaurs. He has also hosted some of the programs about dinosaurs on the PBS series NOVA.

This is a popular book intended for the general reader. It presents some of the very latest discoveries and theories about the dinosaurs. The book is well organized and thought out to help the reader put everything in perspective. The first page of each chapter has a silhouette map of the world with the continents in the appropriate position for the geologic time to be discussed; it further has a time line showing the period to be discussed in relation to the "age of dinosaurs" and another time line placing the "age of dinosaurs" within the overall geologic time chart. These devices are an excellent means to help keep everything straight.

I would venture to say that the work of all of today's premiere dinosaur paleontologists is featured somewhere within Kings of Creation. Much of the book is written in story book fashion as the author follows these leading paleontologists in their latest discoveries. If you have followed any of the PBS or cable dinosaur series, you will certainly recognize the names of Bakker, Currie, Horner, Sereno, Weishample, Dodson, Chatterjee, and Gillette. In addition to these, the leading Chinese dinosaur paleontologist, Dong Zhiming, is featured.

Coverage is worldwide. Paul Sereno's discoveries of the earliest dinosaur from Argentina is featured in one chapter. Dinosaur discoveries in Alaska and Australia, each in polar regions during the late Cretaceous, are featured in another chapter. Chinese dinosaurs of the Gobi desert also receive a full chapter. Jack Horner's work on dinosaur eggs, babies, and parental care has extensive coverage. European, African, and other American discoveries are all covered as well.

Lessem not only relates the stories of discoveries by noted scientists but also delves into some of the current controversial issues such as: Sankar Chatterjee's Protoavis, proposed as the earliest bird at 225 million years; Robert Bakker's warm blooded dinosaur theories; and the extinction issue gradual decline or catastrophic event. The author wisely doesn't draw conclusions but presents the arguments and evidence from all sides and lets the reader ponder the outcome. Again, if you are familiar with the PBS presentations you will remember that each side sounds equally correct as presented by its prime proponent.

Three pages in mid book are devoted to the selling of fossils. This will give you a good understanding of the concerns of professional paleontologists regarding commercial collecting. A number of instances of the raiding of professional sites are related. Nonetheless, contributions by commercial collectors are acknowledged as having been valuable to science.

A two page insert between chapters covers a current hot topic, dinosaur DNA. It is reported that experiments by Gordon Curry at the University of Glasgow with Alaskan dinosaur bone are being done. The Alaskan fossils are not heavily mineralized and it is hoped that some of the original proteins remain for DNA studies.

I would strongly recommend Kings of Creation to anyone wanting to learn the most recent (up to the date of publication) information about dinosaurs. It has the most current findings in an easily readable style.

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