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From Dinosaurs to Birds - A Bunch of Intermediates
on 31 October 2008
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.