Dinosaurs are pretty much the coolest and I am forever glad this is one interest that I never grew out of. I have fond memories of burying rocks in the sandbox, then using kitchen utensils to 'dig them up'. Apparently grill brushes are not to be used in the sandbox, who knew?
The focus of this text moves beyond just the fossilized bones that we have left. It discusses in-depth the rare mummified dinosaurs found in just a few locations around the world. Should be amazingly interesting, right?
Yes, except it's not.
While it is very clear that the author is passionate about his field of study, perhaps the specific find he chose to highlight, the project as a whole, should have been completed before the book was actually published. We get tons of background and historical and technical information, but in the end we don't get to find out what was in the big body block because the CT scans were not finished by the time of publication. The ending is super anti-climactic and it seems silly to write a book about a project that's not even completed yet.
Manning went into detail about previous finds related to soft tissue, which ended up being rather helpful given that his own work was not yet complete. At the time I was reading, I thought it was out of place to discuss other finds so thoroughly, but it made sense once I had finished the book with no conclusion to his own.
Even so, this was a tedious read on more than one occasion and for all the effort it took for me to finish reading the book, it would have been nice to know what the CT scan showed. I definitely won't be buying his updated version of the text, once that scan is complete; it will definitely be one from the library again.
I wish I had gobs of money to go gallivanting all over the world, stealing fossils from other countries.
Oh, wait, no I don't, because that is shady as hell and these fossils need to be in the care of scientists to study and preserve them.
I am not against the idea of amateur paleontologists - it is indeed how some of the greatest fossil finds have been discovered. But to steal them from the countries in which they were discovered, and then sell them at auction to the highest bidder, who will then hide them away in their private collection just feels all kinds of wrong to me - mostly because it is wrong. If we now acknowledge that items looted from the Middle East (especially Egypt!) up until not that long ago (and let's be honest, it is STILL happening) should be returned to the country of their origin, why should dinosaur fossils be any different. The argument is made that the fossils will be seen by more people, or be better cared-for, if placed in museums in the West, but that's not fair.
Anyway, this book is about an amateur paleontologist who developed a passion for the field at a young age. He unearthed quite the find in Mongolia, sold it at auction, and it was then displayed in Manhattan. The T. bataar was the find of a lifetime for Prokopi and I do admire the effort and energy he put into finding, securing, preparing, and displaying his finds. But the problem remains that they were not his to do so with. Prokopi is not a terribly likable figure, so I do not have much sympathy for him. I realize this has a major impact on his life, what with the jail time and all, and the strain it put on his family, but he chose to take this hugely important find, purposely mislabeled the crates to return home, and engaged in illegal activity in doing so.
I was kind of surprised by how boring the whole trial came across as. Maybe it really was that boring, as the author does a great job maintaining pacing within the rest of the text. I would have liked more from the trial, transcripts and such, all the arguments for and against, but it was all so matter-of-fact and dry. Perhaps it is because I personally am so passionate about this that I expected more. And as always, I would much rather things be accurate than sensational just for the sake of being sensational.
I have two main issues with the book. First, the book is the heavily detailed account of the history of Mongolia. This served no purpose to move the story along, and only what pertained to the collection of fossils should have been included. It felt like extra padding added to a story that did not need anything of the kind. But, given the fact that the book looks deceptively long when you hold the physical copy in your hands, I see why that information was included. Half the book is actually research. The author has tons heaps and heaps of it, and knows the story well. Even so, the "extra stuff" was distracting from an otherwise engaging text.
Secondly, um, WHERE ARE THE PHOTOGRAPHS??
Overall it was a mostly interesting read, but one I would suggest getting from the library.
A giant book crammed with giant facts about giant dinosaurs. I'm pretty sure this might actually be a text book, because there was so much info, and such tiny print, I can't imagine too many people reading this for fun, unless they're obsessed with dinosaurs. Even I struggled with it a lot, because there was just SO MUCH. Tons of photos, timelines, sidebars, anything and everything. Almost too much.
If you are inclined to pick this one up, only a physical copy will due. There is no way it will translate well to an e-reader.
Where may I place my order for a chickenosaurus, please and thank you?
While the text meanders here and there, I am inclined to follow Horner's meanderings wherever they may lead in regards to this subject.
Dinosaurs never went extinct, and this is not a new concept. This was being presented at least as far back as Jurassic Park (Horner was a consultant on the film), where my knowledge of dinosaurs really began to form. In addition, if you are a regular reader of the blog you might recall my post from a month ago when Dr Lindsay Zanno visited The Durham and gave several lectures on tyrannosaurs and discussed this topic. Eleanor is endlessly delighted by this fact - what six year old wouldn't be? - and tells anyone and everyone that dinosaurs still exist, even if they look a little different now.
In a nutshell, Horner lays the groundwork for what would be necessary to create a dinosaur today, basically reverse-engineering one using chicken embryos. He explains how this could be done by manipulating the genetic code of a chicken (one at a time. No worries, were they to reproduce, they would only create another chicken) and unsuppressing, for lack of a better word, the dinosaur genes that still exist within the chicken's DNA. This would, in theory, produce chickens, but chickens that have teeth, front claws instead of wings, and tails.
Sadly, Horner does not believe this would happen in his lifetime, given the insane amounts of time and money such a project would take. I am only 36, so perhaps in my lifetime? I hope so, because I really want a chickenosaurus.