Dinosaur Odyssey: Fossil Threads in the Web of Life

Dinosaur Odyssey: Fossil Threads in the Web of Life

Dinosaur Odyssey: Fossil Threads in the Web of Life

Dinosaur Odyssey: Fossil Threads in the Web of Life

Synopsis

This captivating book, laced with evocative anecdotes from the field, gives the first holistic, up-to-date overview of dinosaurs and their world for a wide audience of readers. Situating these fascinating animals in a broad ecological and evolutionary context, leading dinosaur expert Scott D. Sampson fills us in on the exhilarating discoveries of the past twenty-five years, the most active period in the history of dinosaur paleontology, during which more "new" species were named than in all prior history. With these discoveries--and the most recent controversies--in mind, Sampson reconstructs the odyssey of the dinosaurs from their humble origins on the supercontinent Pangaea, to their reign as the largest animals the planet has ever known, and finally to their abrupt demise. Much more than the story of who ate whom way back when, Dinosaur Odyssey places dinosaurs in an expansive web of relationships with other organisms and demonstrates how they provide a powerful lens through which to observe the entire natural world. Addressing topics such as extinction, global warming, and energy flow, Dinosaur Odyssey finds that the dinosaurs' story is, in fact, a major chapter in our own story.

Excerpt

Philip J. Currie

Professor and Canada Research Chair
of Dinosaur Paleobiology, University of Alberta

I was only 6 years old when I “dug up” my first dinosaur from the inside of a cereal box. The plastic model inspired my imagination in a powerful way that led to regular visits to the dinosaur galleries at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada. Several times a week, I would go to Sixteen Mile Creek near my home to scramble up and down the cliffs of Ordovician sediments, collecting marine invertebrate fossils while I fantasized about discovering dinosaurs. I read (and reread) every book that was available to me about any fossils from anywhere. After reading All about Dinosaurs by Roy Chapman Andrews when I was 11 years old, I knew that I wanted to be a dinosaur hunter. Such is the power of the written word. Unfortunately, in the 1950s and 1960s, there were relatively few printed words to meet my insatiable appetite for detailed information on dinosaurs. Dinosaurs were popular with the public, but little scientific research was being done on them. As a substitute, I filled in the void by reading comic books, science fiction stories, and anything else that even remotely mentioned a dinosaur.

Scientific research on dinosaurs reached a watershed in 1962 when a young scientist named John Ostrom discovered specimens of a small meat-eating dinosaur in Montana. The discovery went virtually unnoticed at first, but when his influential publication naming Deinonychus antirrhopus appeared in 1969, things really started to happen. An article by Robert T. Bakker in Scientific American in 1975 made it official with its title: “Dinosaur Renaissance.”

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