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Dinosaurs of the East Coast =David B. Weishampel & Luthor Young;

An absolute “must have” for those dinophiles living on the eastern seaboard. The writers take the reader on a voyage of discovery of east coast dinosaurdom. The knowledgeable dinophile will find the early going is a rehash of previous knowledge of the East Coast dinosauria with its dinosaur tracks, the initial discovery of the world’s first nearly complete dinosaur skeleton “Hadrosaurus folkii” in 1858 and Cope vs March. However the recap makes an interesting “deja vu” with a full explanation of terminology in layman’s terms in order not to confuse the casual reader. Descriptions are given of the various dinosaurian groupings and cladistics are relied upon to explain much of their inter-relatedness.

The layout of the book takes you from the beginnings of east coast paleontology (chapters 1-4) to a description of each “age” of dinosaurs as known in the eastern US (chapters 5-8). Discussion is done not
only on a dinosaur by dinosaur basis but on a state by state basis. This keeps the reader in touch with what was going on “not only when” but “where” as well. In addition there are copious illustrations,
tables, and maps to keep a “foreigner” (read that non-easterner) aligned with the area and the animal being discussed whether from Nova Scotia or South Carolina. The 9th chapter is devoted to the modern seekers on the east coast (state by state and formation by formation with maps) and what and where they are finding things. The 10th chapter is devoted to “dinosaur mysteries” and comes up with the “media-accepted” solution of asteroid impact as the final killer.

I found the book made some assertions as though they were fact when really they were based upon speculations or stereotypes. For example, ankylosaurs are described as “slow, sluggish, and low on brainpower – it’s a good thing ankylosaurs were so well armored!” (p15). Perhaps but not proven.
. . for example – some might consider armadillos as slow and low on brain power but I have witnessed them exhibit the ability to literally leap in the air 18″ when startled. Not a “slow and sluggish” move!! Also they mentioned that “Pachycephalosaurs were the head butters of the Mesozoic with a thickened skull and other skeletal modifications that must have served as shock absorbers for head-on collisions”. (pg 15). It is my understanding that this speculation has had some serious opposition
referring to the alignment of the neck vertebrae and their inability to withstand the shock of the collision.

Roger Fry

Dinosaurs of the Flaming Cliffs Michael Novacek.

Ulaan Bataar, Dalan Dzadgad, Baishin Tsav, Hurrendoch, Saynshand, the Nemegt Basin, Ukhaa Tolgod, the flaming mountains of Gurvain Saichan. . .the names ring so foreign in our ears yet they somehow stir the spirit of the adventurer in all of us. With this book you can put on the sound track of “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, settle back in your chair, open to page one, and embark upon a well written adventure that includes both science and danger.

Michael Novacek is both Provost of the American Museum of Natural History and an accomplished writer. I expected to open a book and read a pleasant but mundane account of the first six western” expeditions to the Gobi Desert in almost 60 years but was absolutely surprised and captivated by Novacek’s creative writing that grabbed me from the first paragraph and compelled me to continue to read on and on.

The book opens with the expedition’s first trip in 1990 to the “Flamuung Cleefs” (in the words of Dr. Demberelyin Dashzeveg their Mongolian host and world-famous paleontologist). The narrative picks up as
their Russian GAZ truck driven by a Mongolian driver nicknamed Mad Max is about to embark into the dune country of the Gobi. And like the wind in the Gobi, the book never lets up.

To describe all of the information that is included in the book would not only be nigh impossible but would ruin the journey and adventure for you. Novacek takes the reader into the heart of the Gobi desert, from the thrill of the “first” find, to the boredom of traveling hour after hour under tough circumstances, to the discovery of their “Xanadu”, the fabulous Cretaceous setting at Ukhaa Tolgod. The format of the book is a chapter describing each of the six expeditions with as little tedious detail
as possible. Sandwiched between each “expedition” chapter is a chapter devoted to science and the meanings of the discoveries. The science in these intervening chapters does not “throw off” the
non-professional reader and still includes details and concepts to sustain the interest of the avocational paleontologist as well as the professional.

The discoveries that have come from these expeditions have shed new light on what we know about the animals of that age. Perhaps the most publically known specimen is the Oviraptor entombed upon his/her nest. However lost among the media hype of this extraordinary find are the superlative mammal skulls and skeletons, the likes of which have never been seen before. These tiny skeletons (some less than 7″ long) are providing new insight into the “middle third” of mammalian life on Earth.

I highly recommend this book for those who are interested in the aspect of field work and who dream of finding their own “Xanadu”. Novacek and company traveled to the Gobi, suffered heat, exhaustion, biting flies, dust storms, bad food, and an unstable political situation to bring back treasures only dreamed about by most of us. Is this book worth reading? . . . it is worth re-reading!

Roger Fry

Dinotopia books:

  • Hatchling(Dinotopia, No 3); Midori Snyder;
  • River Quest (Dinotopia); John Vornholt
  • Sabertooth Mountain Dinotopia Digest Novels , No 5); John Vornholt
  • Thunder Falls (Dinotopia Digest Novels , No 6)
  • Windchaser (Dinotopia); Scott Ciencin
  • Dinotopia : The Official Strategy Guide (Secrets of the Games Series.)
  • James Gurney’s Dinotopia Pop-Up Book James Gurney
Science Books – Reviews & Recommendations