New Prothero: Twenty Five Dino Discoveries

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There is a new book by Don Prothero, and it is a new book in the microgenre of “25 things.”

The Story of the Dinosaurs in 25 Discoveries: Amazing Fossils and the People Who Found Them by Don Prothero is available now for pre-order, and is expected to hit the shelves in mid July. It will provide excellent summer reading!

You know of Prothero because of his many books including the current classic (now in its second edition) Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters. The “25” genera includes The Story of the Earth in 25 Rocks: Tales of Important Geological Puzzles and the People Who Solved Them, and The Story of Life in 25 Fossils: Tales of Intrepid Fossil Hunters and the Wonders of Evolution.

This book has a chapter devoted to each discovery. The nature of the discovery varies, and the definition of discovery is, necessarily and helpfully, very wide ranging. In many cases, the discovery, recovery, eventual reporting or publication, and integration of a dinosaur species is a long and drawn out process involving multiple field trips, many different characters, and a lot of action. For example, the “discovery” of spinosaurus (from Egypt) comes to us as a story involving two world wars, several expeditions, great human tragedy, and some cool dinosaur bones. Other discoveries are more about how we think about dinosaurs. This is especially true of the first few chapters, which serve to illustrate how clueless early researchers were about certain things, while being pretty smart about other things.

Chapter 6, on Eoraptor, focuses not on a specific discovery, but rather, on the question of what a dinosaur actually is, how taxonomy has changed, and on attempts to identify and define the basal dinosaur (which is not Eoraptor, but it kinda is). There are other similar orienting pauses elsewhere in the book as well.

Although the chapters vary a great deal in the range of time, space, or fossil material covered, they follow a general pattern of putting together in one place most of the pertinent facts about a particular episode in the history of dinosaur research, and the pertinent facts about a particular part of the overall dinosaur bestiary. All in all, there is a good bit of history, history of the science, anatomy, evolutionary biology, scientific drama, greatness and tragedy of the act of discovory (or loss), and many many bones.

It is important for you to know that Prothero brings the reader up to date on many, probably most, of the current dinosaur controversies and conundra. The Story of the Dinosaurs in 25 Discoveries: Amazing Fossils and the People Who Found Them is divided into four sections. The first is about early finds and early thinking, from the dark ages of dinosaur research. The second focuses on the long-necked giants, the third on theropods, and the fourth on the ornithischians (duck beaked, horned, and spiky armored dinosaurs). I’ve put a current draft of the TOC at the bottom of the post to give you an idea of the detail of coverage.

I highly recommend this book.

Also by Prothero: When Humans Nearly Vanished: The Catastrophic Explosion of the Toba Volcano, Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future, UFOs, Chemtrails, and Aliens: What Science Says, The Princeton Field Guide to Prehistoric Mammals (Princeton Field Guides), California’s Amazing Geology, and coming out in the future: Fantastic Fossils: A Guide to Finding and Identifying Prehistoric Life, and a bunch of other books.

TOC:
Part I. In the Beginning
1. Megalosaurus: The “Great Lizard,” the “Scrotum Humanum”, and the First Named Dinosaur
2. Iguanodon: Gideon Mantell, Louis Dollo, and the First Dinosaur Fauna
3. Cetiosaurus: The “Whale Lizard,” Richard Owen, and the First Known Sauropod
4. Hadrosaurus: Joseph Leidy and the First American Dinosaur
5. Eoraptor: The First Dinosaurs
Part II. The Long-Necked Giants
6. Plateosaurus: Ancestors of the Giants
7. Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus: Marsh, Cope, and the Bone Wars
8. Diplodocus: The Real “Jurassic Park” and Carnegie’s Gift
9. Giraffatitan: The Tallest of the Tall, and the Tendaguru
10. Patagotitan: Who’s the Biggest of Them All?
Part III. Red in Tooth and Claw: The Theropods
11. Coelophysis: The Little Dinosaur of Ghost Ranch
12. Cryolophosaurus: Denizen of the Polar Darkness
13. Spinosaurus: Lost Giants of Egypt
14. Tyrannosaurus: King of the Tyrant Reptiles
15. Giganotosaurus: Biggest Predator of All?
16. Deinocheirus: “Terrible Hands” Lead to Big Surprises
17. Velociraptor: “Terrible Claws” and the Dinosaur Renaissance
18. Sinosauropteryx: Feathered Dinosaurs and the Origin of Birds
Part IV. Horns and Spikes and Armor and Duck Beaks: The Ornithischians
19. Heterodontosaurus: The Origin of Ornithischians
20. Stegosaurus: The “Roofed Lizard” and the Thagomizer
21. Ankylosaurus: Armored Dinosaurs and “Mr. Bones”
22. Corythosaurus: Duckbills with Headgear
23. Stegoceras: The “Unicorn Dinosaur” and the Boneheads
24. Protoceratops: The Griffin Legend and the Origin of Horned Dinosaurs
25. Triceratops: The “Dinosaurian Bison” and the Last of the Dinosaurs


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1 thought on “New Prothero: Twenty Five Dino Discoveries

  1. I’ve read and often refer to several of Dr. Prothero’s books. Even those of us with advanced degrees can learn a lot from them if our degrees are in other specialties or are more than a few years old.

    The existence of excellent, accessible, up to date, and interesting books on geology and paleontology by Don Prothero and others (Peter Ward comes to mind) makes it all the more difficult to understand why ignorance of science is so widespread in the U.S. (and seems to dominate one particular U.S. political party. Wilful ignorance it seems to be.

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