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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This is a fascinating work presented after the fashion of a well illustrated guide to modern birds. Each known fossil pro-bird or bird is depicted, in chronological order, by a coloured drawing with a carefully worded description on the opposite page. Inevitably there has to be a certain amount of guess work as to plumage colour, but so much has been discovered with regard to bird evolution, notably in China, over the past twenty years or so that it's now possible to fill in a vast number of 'gaps' enabling us to discern, ever more clearly, the gradual progress towards the kind of birds we have in the world of today.

The actual guide to the large number of Mesozoic birds is prefaced with helpful chapters defining what is meant by the term 'birds', bird ancestry, the origin of feathers, the first birds, Mesozoic bird diversity, the evolution of flight and work involved in restoring the feathers, wings, beaks, teeth and feather colour of these ancient birds and bird ancestors. It's all very well written in a very readable, readily absorbed style accompanied by some helpful illustrations and diagrams and this work is especially good with regard to its helpful details concerning the evolution of feathers, which is also well illustrated in a diagram on page 20.

The actual guide to each known Mesozoic bird begins with the most primitive known birds progressing through to the advent of the direct ancestors to modern birds appearing at the end of the Cretaceous, the last of the three periods (Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous) in the Mesozoic Era, the end of which dates back to circa 65 million years ago. Beside the coloured illustration of each Mesozoic bird is a box containing a grey silhouette of a human with a blue silhouette of the bird in question beside it, which enables the viewer to have an excellent idea of the actual size of the bird. In a few cases the ancient bird in question is so large it dwarfs the human, whereas, in others, the bird in question is smaller than a sparrow.

The earliest birds all had teeth and it was sometime before toothless beaks became standard among all birds. It is all very clear now that birds evolved from a certain type of dinosaur. In fact, strictly speaking, they are dinosaurs, which means that dinosaurs are not extinct. The closest living relatives of birds are crocodiles, which, unlike most other reptiles, have a four chambered heart like birds. However, since the ancestors of crocodiles branched off from the reptiles before the rise of the dinosaurs, they are not very close to birds, which also evolved brittle shelled eggs different from the soft-shelled reptile variety. Birds have also evolved very good brains often rivalling the cleverest of mammals.

Perusing this work is like as if the reader is living there with these ancient birds, expecting some of them to appear in the room with him/her, except that you don't want the big ones to do that as that would be very frightening. I keep this work alongside my field guide to modern European birds. Comparing the old with the new is a fascinating exercise. This work is a wonderful idea and the author, Matthew P Martyniuk, deserves high praise for bringing it to us in such vivid fashion.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 31 December 2012
This is a science-heavy guide, presented for the time-traveling backpacker in the guide format familiar to any bird-watchers out there. We are presented with wonderfully fluffy specimens, occasionally in display pose and text. Lots of text. I'll be chewing on this for a while, but I can assure you - it assumes a basic familiarity with vocabulary such as `remiges', `phylogeny', `tibia' and `tarsus' - only the last two of which make it into the glossary, but whereas Yesterdays seems primarily focused on the process and perception of artistic reconstruction, this guide is squarely focused on birds. Mesozoic birds.

One very minor disappointment is the quality of formatting and presentational graphics. The phylogenetic trees and associated timelines could be presented in more inviting ways, or more graphically, such as each specimen's time range, geographic location and habitat. (ie. was the Smokey Hill Chalk Member a woodland in the Cretaceous?) Minor critique aside, this is the book for the dedicated dinosaur / bird aficionado - perfect to test that little know-it-all pipsqueak in every family, to see if he / she manages to chew through this material.
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on 3 December 2014
I really enjoyed this book, and I really like the idea of a field guide to extinct animals. It works really well, and really drives home the point about bird-y feathered dinosaurs. The reconstructions are realistic and accurate, and there's a section on reconstruction which is really useful. Top notch science!

I'm tempted to buy more copies of this and give it to people but everyone I know who likes this sort of thing already has it.

I wish I had something more sensible to say in this review, but honestly, I love this book.
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on 22 September 2015
Very interesting. The dinosaur/bird link very well explained.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 15 January 2014
Wonderfull read, especially about what modern bird feather pigments tell us about what we do not yet know about dinosaur pigmentation (so far the fossil evidence is only for melanins, and irridescence in a few types). Classifications relating to different groups are confusing and don't link together well. Lots of illustrations, some for dino's I've never seen or heard of before
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 22 February 2014
Gave this as a gift to Grandaughter who thinks it's the 'best book ever' arrived a little later than hoped but would use this supplier again
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 30 October 2013
Interesting discussion on colour in fossil feathers. Amusing Field Guide format for species unlikely to be encountered in the wild.
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