Profile for Nick Candoros > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Nick Candoros
Top Reviewer Ranking: 260,879
Helpful Votes: 428

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Nick Candoros (Athens - Greece)
(REAL NAME)   

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5
pixel
Horns, Tusks, and Flippers: The Evolution of Hoofed Mammals
Horns, Tusks, and Flippers: The Evolution of Hoofed Mammals
by Donald R. Prothero
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £46.35

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thundering Hooves, Past and Present, 3 Dec. 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
There is an austerity in the book. Maybe it is due to the edition format (more on this later) or the exclusively black & white illustrations; or the scientific organization of the material, making no concessions to flashy expectations. Anyway, a cursory look, even by interested laymen, can discourage one in purchasing it.
And it would be a mistake of colossal proportions. The book is a marvel both in the information it provides and the thoroughly organized way it is presented. The subject is the evolution of one of the most long-lived and ecologically successful mammal orders, the ungulates or hoofed mammals. And the two authors, clearly in complete love with their subject, give us an all-encompassing picture of this thundering procession of families, genera and species, from the first stirrings in the Eocene up to the richness of the Pleistocene, glacial or interglacial.
Each family - with modern representatives or not - gets its chapter (or chapters) with history of major discoveries, scientific anecdotes, hypotheses on phylogeny, anatomy and way of life of various species. The paleontology fan may be surprised at the space given to analytical description for present day ungulates. But there are at least two good reasons for it: Darwinian Evolution being what it is, various fundamental anatomical characteristics of today's animals come directly from their distant ancestors, providing crucial points on extinct creatures' size, form and physiology. Plus, in examining the ecology of the descendants, scientists can form more secure opinions on whole lost ecosystems, which housed their magnificent and hopelessly lost forebears.
The text is clearly aimed at an interested amateur audience, with scientific terminology kept to a minimum - except of course the creatures' names offered in abundance. It is pleasantly written without sacrificing any important material, even offering many happy instances of dry and self-deprecating humor. All obscure or contentious points - many of those in any such study - are carefully deployed, with all pertinent arguments and robustly supported opinions. It is really a joy to read.
But the good impression given by the text is somewhat marred by the very low quality of the illustrations. Black & White is not really an issue, even if a set of color plates would be nice. More is the bad printing of many photographs and the, almost consistently, outdated sketches of the extinct species. Many come from really old sources, a puzzle to me, since there is an overabundance of high quality modern representations - Maurizio Anton's work comes readily to mind. And the family trees, showing animals' evolution and relationships, are rendered so poorly (like bad photocopies) that sometimes it is difficult to read species names.
Despite these shortcomings, the book is so rich in the material it contains and so well organized and written, that it would be a shame for any prehistoric life lover to bypass it.


Feathered Dinosaurs: The Origin of Birds
Feathered Dinosaurs: The Origin of Birds
by John Long
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars From Dinosaurs to Birds - A Bunch of Intermediates, 31 Oct. 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
It is quite an opulent edition. Big book format, good quality paper and an abundance of colorful dinosaur illustrations. But on close inspection, some irritating flaws emerge.
First of all there is the "generalist" part of the book, laying the foundation for the species profiles. It discusses various carnivorous dinosaur families and how these seem to lead, by careful evolutionary steps, to the first birds. The text is interesting but the "dinosaurs-birds" connection comes through somewhat weakly. The arguments are there all right, but I have read much stronger propositions on the subject, "Dino-Birds" and "Glorified Dinosaurs" for instance. And there is virtually nothing on the most crucial question of the origin of flight
Then we come to the main part of the book, the profiles themselves. Well, there is a very good representation from all relevant dinosaur and bird families, with many obscure and / or recently discovered species, mainly form the current paleontologist's paradise, the Liaoning Province in China. The emphasis, of course, is on the feathered dinosaur species, but it seems to me that the author and artist take the opportunity to put feathers in as many reptiles as possible, even on scant paleontological evidence. Perhaps they thought this way it would be easier for the general public to understand the continuum between the two animal groups, but poetic and artistic license may go just a bit too far. Finally, the artist's comments on why he chose animal postures and colors were a nice documentation touch, but his arguments are not always convincing and the images themselves sometimes verge, to my opinion, on the kitsch.
Overall it is a good try on the subject, one of the most controversial in modern paleontology, but it could have done with less flamboyance and more quality and substance.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 28, 2010 4:13 PM BST


Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters
Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters
by Donald R Prothero
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.95

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Deployment of Scientific Data, 31 July 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The initial ambition of the book is quite a tall order: To present, in a concise, well structured and all inclusive way, the overwhelming evidence for the existence of Evolution in the Natural World, as developed by Darwin and confirmed through the continuous and arduous research by thousands of scientists for the last 150 years.
The material evidence itself is vast, since it covers hundreds of millions of years and innumerable families of creatures, from simple single-celled organisms to complex living beings in many animal lineages. The author repeatedly laments the constrictions of space imposed by the book, which forces him to focus only in some "key" groups and their evolutionary history, while mercilessly abandoning a wealth of valuable fossils and the arguments for the nature and process of Evolution they offered.
But he has chosen well. The moments of Earth's evolutionary history he examines closely and the species selected for each and every one of them, present ample and undisputable proof for the way the Natural World evolves, creating the wealth and beauty of prehistoric and modern ecosystems. Again and again, a veritable avalanche of data, from an immensely rich fossil record worldwide, is used, in an objective, well-structured, scientific way, in order to demonstrate that Evolution exists and works more or less according to Darwinian principles.
The book strives for scientific cold-blooded objectivity and an adherence to provable and well-established facts. Nevertheless it has a militant character, since the author aims to utterly discredit the creationist view of the world, with its narrow-minded interpretation of physical reality. And he clearly means business, since his arguments, in every chapter, are akin to concentrated artillery fire, against the unrelenting attacks of the opposite side to all things scientific which do not agree with their strict beliefs.
To an educated European like myself, the sole fact that such a wealth of scientific evidence for the existence of Evolution, is not enough proof by itself, but has to be deployed as an army against a fundamentalist ideology, fills me with a mixture of amusement and dread. The later because this whole conflict takes place within a supposedly free, democratic, fully developed and powerful nation as the USA. So, for all our sakes, the book, apart of very well written and pleasurably educating, is critical in the positions it defends and the thorough way it does it.


The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution
The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution
by Sean B. Carroll
Edition: Hardcover

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Genes on the loose, but with a purpose, 17 Jun. 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Genetics science has mushroomed the last 50 years, overturning many cherished preconceptions in biology and other Natural Sciences, while buttressing other theories with an abundance of hard scientific evidence. Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution through Natural Selection has been in the later category, with its core assumptions confirmed by the new data about DNA structure, history and function.
The book is composed by a series of essays on the nature and function of genes within the DNA code, embedded in the cells of every living organism. The author offers ample evidence, from experimental data, about how exactly the workings of genes are ultimately responsible for the shaping and evolution of the Natural World around us. The point of the whole demonstration is to establish that Natural Selection mechanisms, as defined by Darwin about 150 years ago, are alive, well and firmly supported by the new data.
The text is aimed at the general public but some knowledge in basic biology and DNA function will help the reader to follow the arguments more closely. It is not a prerequisite though, since the author explains thoroughly the more stringent points, with help from the illustrations.
The last part of the book is the most disappointing, since it involves the denial of evolution, based on religious grounds, and a dire comment on the continuing destruction we inflict to the planet's ecosystems. The author's position, and one that I personally agree totally with, is that alarm bells are already sounding in many quarters and we no longer have the option of intellectual blindness.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 16, 2009 2:06 PM GMT


Glorified Dinosaurs: The Origin and Early Evolution of Birds
Glorified Dinosaurs: The Origin and Early Evolution of Birds
by Luis M. Chiappe
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A glorious flight over a sea of new information, 15 Feb. 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
It is, unfortunately, a rare pleasure to read a popular science book that manages to balance in such an exquisite way, the wealth and depth of scientific data it provides with a simple and elegant writing style, accessible to all interested parties irrespective of their educational background.
The author follows the avian evolutionary saga, from the first indication of the existence of primitive birds, via "Archaeopteryx", up to the beginning of the Cenozoic Era which saw the rapid radiation of all modern birds' families. The story begins during the Mesozoic, and the dinosaurs-birds connection is firmly and irrevocably established, courtesy of the wealth of new Chinese fossils of feathered maniraptorans. Then Mr. Chiappe tackles the complicated and quite heated debate of the origin of flight and the solution he proposes at least seams more probable than the alternatives. The following chapters examine, quite thoroughly, various avian families, as they make their appearance in the fossil record, until the beginning of the Tertiary period.
The book offers a real cornucopia of information on the subject of birds' origin and early evolution, managing to incorporate the very latest of what paleontological research has to offer. Anyone, with a minimum educational background on natural history, can easily follow the scientific arguments presented in the precise and very well written text. And the abundant fossil photographs, diagrams and creature restorations are one of the book's bigger advantages, going a long way to enhancing the reader's education and pleasure.
Any book on the subject of prehistoric creatures, their physique, behavior or ecology, is bound to contain a lot of controversial issues. This one is no exception. And it is to the author's credit that, irrespective of his strong and well supported opinions, he always presents all arguments and continuously warns the reader that the validity of his conclusions depends on current information and new discoveries can easily overturn them. Plus, he constantly reminds us about the scarcity of the fossil record and the need of continuous research in order to fill the blanks and correct any errors.
Overall an excellent book for anyone interested in prehistoric life or birds evolution in particular.


Sea Monsters: Prehistoric Creatures of the Deep
Sea Monsters: Prehistoric Creatures of the Deep
by Mike Everhart
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.50

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Narrow on scope but very interesting, 26 Jan. 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Prehistoric sea reptiles of the Mesozoic are as interesting as their terrestrial cousins and contemporaries, the Dinosaurs. The problem is there are not many books available for them, at least not for non-scientists. So when one such book comes along, you grab it. And get a mixed reaction.
Let's have the positive aspect first. It is a well written book, easy to follow even if you have no previous idea about paleontology. There is a clear methodology in its presentation of Mesozoic sea reptiles, their families and evolution. Also the supplements about famous fossil hunters and methods of fossil excavation and preparation are useful and give one an accurate idea of the immense task of bringing slowly, painfully, to life the fragments of Earth's life history glimpsed through fragmentary fossils scattered all over the globe. And of course the illustrations are of the quality and scientific accuracy which are the hallmark of a "National Geographic" edition.
But the book focuses on just one period of Mesozoic sea life development, namely middle to late Cretaceous, around 82 million years ago. I understand that the film which inspired the book had the same narrow focus, and I fully sympathize with the time and costs constraints imposing that narrowness. But the book could have moved beyond these limits and present a full account of prehistoric sea reptiles. Also, I think that at least some data were repeated many times throughout the book, in different forms, without offering any new perspectives. Finally the 3-D images were sensational but they were more of an interesting trick than an informational tool.
Overall it was a good book and it gave a scientifically accurate picture of Cretaceous Sea Life, accessible to all interested audiences. But it could have been much more if it had used the 3-D movie as a starting point instead of an exclusive inspiration.


The Pterosaurs: From Deep Time
The Pterosaurs: From Deep Time
by David M. Unwin
Edition: Hardcover

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book about a fascinating subject, 17 Oct. 2007
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
That's the way all popular science books should be written. With a firm structure and rigorous methodology of presenting information, but in a clear and elegant style, accessible to all interested readers.
Pterosaurs have been getting a raw deal, from the publicity point of view, since they have been depicted, more or less, as sky decoration for dinosaur dioramas, as the author points out. Not any more. New and exciting discoveries all over the globe, but particularly in China and South America, have put a lot of new meat in the bones of the Pterosaur evolutionary history. And have allowed scientists to form more accurate hypotheses on the physiology and ecology of these long-lost animals.
The author begins with a history of Pterosaur fossils discoveries and how these have enabled us to construct their family tree, tracing their evolution from tiny insect eaters 10-20 cm across of the Triassic, to the generalist giants with wingspans of 10 m at the end of the Cretaceous. The Pterosaur anatomy is given a thorough description, with particular attention given to wing bones and membranes and the magnificent head crests, spectacular trademarks of many Pterosaur species. And then comes the real fire: physiology of reproduction and development and, of course, flight mechanics.
Combining all these data, the final chapters attempt to sketch out the various phases of the Pterosaur story and the place these animals carved for themselves in Mesozoic ecosystems. The author admits that much of the tale is conjectural but things are certainly on a much firmer foot than a decade ago and are getting better all the time.
With its wealth of new information, neat and graceful writing style and impressive illustrations, the book is a must-have for anyone interested in prehistoric life and the Mesozoic in particular.


Jurassic West: The Dinosaurs of the Morrison Formation and Their World (Life of the Past)
Jurassic West: The Dinosaurs of the Morrison Formation and Their World (Life of the Past)
by John Foster
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £35.00

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating lost world brought vividly to life, 26 Sept. 2007
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The "Mighty Morrison" formation is, even today, after more than a century of digging, one of the most prolific fossils' graveyards on Earth. It has enabled both scientists and the general public to get a very good picture of late Jurassic in North America. The book does justice to the tremendous amount of data amassed all these years by dedicated researchers, professional and amateurs alike, presenting them in a clear, precise way, accessible to anyone interested in the subject of prehistoric life.
After the necessary cover of the geological background, the most difficult technically for amateurs, and a brief history of the main discoveries made in the whole area, we get a detailed account of the findings concerning the various vertebrate genera discovered. The matter is organized by family (turtles, lizards, dinosaurs, mammals etc) and then by genus and, sometimes, species. There is anatomical information and hypotheses about animal function and its place in the whole ecosystem. Scientific terminology is kept to a minimum and, whenever inevitable, is meticulously explained. And illustrations and photographs, along with the glossary at the end of the book, facilitate things in a big way.
But the really interesting part comes when the author examines this enormous paleontological data base, in order to form educated guesses about the paleoecology in various parts of the Morrison formation, during the late Jurassic. The ecosystem is examined as any modern one, with precisely set constraints, due to the scarcity or peculiarities of the data, and vigorous statistical analysis. Coupled with the next chapter, about a hypothetical hike across the formation, it gives the reader the impression not of a long lost world but of one filled with superb, beautiful and terrifying life. A look at the color plates confirms just that.


Patagonian Mesozoic Reptiles (Life of the Past)
Patagonian Mesozoic Reptiles (Life of the Past)
by Zulma Gasparini
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £31.50

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Up to Date Database strictly for Scientists, 17 Aug. 2007
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Patagonia is one of the hottest Mesozoic research points on the planet and there was a need for a book to summarize and describe in detail the discoveries, debates and conclusions regarding the relevant ecosystems.
Well the book succeeds in the details department. It is a collaborative effort from a group of paleontologists, each writing about his/her special field of interest. Each chapter is concerned with a particular category of Patagonian prehistoric reptiles (turtles, crocodiles, carnivorous dinosaurs etc.) and describes in great detail what has been discovered and where. The classification trees (with the relevant chronology) presented in the beginning of each section, are a great help for someone who approaches the subject for the first time. And after the individual species descriptions, we get a summary trying to put the discoveries in context with other reptile families and the general environment.
But the book is written by experts and is directed to a similar specialized audience. The style is heavily technical, particularly in the description of skeletal fossils for each and every reptile species, meant to be understood and appreciated by current or aspiring paleontologists only. A layperson is hopelessly lost in a jungle of jargon and is scantly helped by the illustrations and maps. And the color plates, since they are limited in number, should have been of a better quality.
As a non-scientist interested in Natural History and Paleontology, I still wish for a book covering Mesozoic Patagonia or any other similar hotspot. But it should be written for a wider audience than the paleontological scientific community.


Twilight of the Mammoths: Ice Age Extinctions and the Rewilding of America (Organisms & Environments) (Organisms and Environments)
Twilight of the Mammoths: Ice Age Extinctions and the Rewilding of America (Organisms & Environments) (Organisms and Environments)
by Paul S Martin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £19.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Passionate Plea for a Lost World, 16 July 2007
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The picture at the book's cover gives the tone of the whole. A magnificent diorama of prehistoric life in North America as the last of the Ice Ages retreated, it bursts with an abundance of animals, many of them spectacular big mammals like mammoths, camels, saber-tooth cats or a giant ground sloth, who, as the author points out from the first paragraphs of the prologue, are no longer there. They are gone, extinct for ever.
The book presents, with a clear and methodical way, the richness of North America Ice Age fauna, in order to drive home, in the most efficient way, the extent and drama of the extinction that followed roughly around 13.000-11.000 years ago, leaving the continent with a much impoverished ecology, which was further undermined or, in some places, utterly destroyed after the arrival of European settlers.
Using data from all around the world - North and South America, Australia, Africa, the Pacific Islands - Mr. Martin slowly and mercilessly builds his case for the repeated phenomenon of sudden and disastrous, from the geological point of view, collapse of prehistorical wild ecosystems. Many complex and rich environments were swiftly and irrevocably depleted from the big or medium-sized mammals who held them together, as those were quickly driven to extinction after the introduction of a single species: Homo Sapiens.
It really seems preposterous that a mere handful of humans could inflict such damage in a comparatively very short time. And the author is the first to point out the poverty of positive archaeological evidence for this "overkill" scenario. At the same time he examines the alternative solutions, mainly climatic change, and finds a lot of negative evidence for them. And all that in a clear and precise writing style, accessible to anyone with a minimum background in paleontology and natural history.
Whether you agree or not with Mr. Martin's arguments, regarding prehistoric species extinctions, you have to appreciate both his passion for the subject and the cool-headed scientific way he approaches it. And then embrace his suggestions for the introduction of "replacement" species (for those extinct) to North American ecosystems. To propose the presence of African elephants in the semi-desert savannah-like environments of the USA, in order to restore the mammoth-based ecology of the region, may seem romantically far-fetched, even a little crazy. But our world has a dire need of romantic lunatics in the field of ecology, particularly if they base their dreams on such solid scientific grounds.


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5