Category: Book Reviews

Fossil Insects – Book Review

The Bugs that Plagued the Dinosaurs

Palaeoentomology, this term may not trip off the tongue but bear with us, for thanks to an amazing new book published at the end of this month, a window into an as yet little explored prehistoric world has just been opened.

Fossil Insects – Exploring Ancient Prehistoric Arthropods

Small is beautiful.

Small is beautiful.

Picture Credit: Manchester University Press Office

Palaeoentomology, is really two words combined into one, firstly, there is “palaeo” from the Greek meaning ancient and then we have “entomology”, which relates to the study insects.  Put it together and you have the study of ancient insects and this new publication “Fossil Insects, An Introduction to Palaeoentomology”, combines two essential elements of science into one excellent volume.  Firstly, there is the scientific study and analysis, in this case provided by authors Dr. David Penney and James E. Jepson and secondly, there is the ability to illustrate long extinct creatures and to resurrect them so that the reader can gain an appreciation of the living animal.  The artwork for this book has been provided by Richard Bizley, a British-based artist and scientific illustrator and what a visual treat Richard provides.

Mayflies Mixing with Dinosaurs

A mayfly rests on a primitive flowering plant - a Cretaceous scene.

A mayfly rests on a primitive flowering plant – a Cretaceous scene.

Picture Credit: Richard Bizley Bizley Art

Over the last three decades or so, scientists have begun to learn so much more about ancient insect life.  These small (and not so small), terrestrial Arthropods that scuttled, climbed, burrowed and flew formed an integral component of some of the first complex ecosystems to evolve on land.  New research methods and techniques have been applied, revealing details of the lives and behaviours of insects, assisting palaeontologists as they reconstruct the habitats and climates of pre-history.

It might be surprising to some, especially when how delicate insects seem to be, but insect fossils are relatively common and yet there is so much to learn and discover.  Dr. David Penney from the University of Manchester has drawn on his knowledge of both entomology and palaeontology to provide a guide to the fossil record and this book both informs and educates.

“Fossil Insects” Provides Plenty of Colour Photographs of Stunning Fossils

The first animals to take to the air.

The first animals to take to the air.

Picture Credit: Manchester University Press Release

From a vertebrate palaeontology perspective, insects have a huge advantage when it comes to the fossil record.  As Dr. Penney points out, the Insecta is the most diverse Class in the Kingdom Animalia but more importantly, fossils preserve insect behaviour and activity as well as the insects themselves.  Fossils showing feeding damage on leaves and wood, fecal pellets, parasitic relationships, even evidence of nests have all been preserved, providing palaeoentomologists with a rich catalogue of fossil material to explore.  Dinosaur trace fossils are rather limited in comparison.

Dr. David Penney (Manchester University)

Exploring fossilised insects.

Exploring fossilised insects.

Picture Credit: Manchester University Press Office

Dr. Penney explains:

“Insects are the most diverse group of creatures on the planet today.  Many of them were around even before the time of the dinosaurs.  Bringing together entomology and palaeontology through the study of insect fossils has great potential for revolutionising what we know about both subjects.”

Many insect fossils can be found as inclusions in amber, often as virtually perfect three-dimensional forms.  Amber is fossil tree resin.  Insects and other organisms can become entombed in the sticky resin and fossilised when it hardens into amber.  This book features plenty of stunning photographs that illustrate these miniature time capsules.

Mosquito Preserved in Dominican Amber

A window into an ancient world.

A window into an ancient world.

Picture Credit: Manchester University Press Release

These amazing prehistoric insects have been brought to life in the book through the exquisite illustrations of Richard Bizley.  He depicts long vanished Arthropods in a unique collaboration with the authors.  Team members at Everything Dinosaur had the very great pleasure of meeting up with Richard in his Dorset studio and viewing some of the artwork that was being prepared for inclusion in this book.  Richard’s astonishing eye for detail and scientific accuracy has enabled him to reconstruct prehistoric scenes from seven of the major geological periods, starting with the rise of the insects during the Devonian and continuing through until the Tertiary.

Carboniferous Creepy-Crawlies

By the Carboniferous the insects were already highly diversified.

By the Carboniferous the insects were already highly diversified.

Picture Credit: Richard Bizley Bizley Art

To make the animals in his beautiful paintings look realistic, Richard created models using scientific drawings and pictures of fossil material.  He then carefully photographed them to see how light behaved on his subjects.

Commenting on his role in helping to bring to life prehistoric environments, the artist stated:

“When reconstructing fossil insect species, special attention needs to be paid to important diagnostic features, such as the wing venation patterns and the relative lengths of appendage segments.  The fact that many fossil insect species are known only from isolated wings posed additional problems.  This is where collaboration with experts became very useful and I worked closely with Dr. Penney to produce an accurate reconstruction based on the comparative study of both fossil and living insects.”

This book is recommended for the general reader, those interested in palaeontology as well as entomology.  The term palaeoentomology (pay-lee-oh-en-toe-mol-oh-gee) may not trip of the tongue but “Insect Fossils, An Introduction to Palaeoentomology” does give the general reader a “taste” for this exciting area of scientific research.

“Fossil Insects, An Introduction to Palaeoentomology” by Dr. David Penney and James E. Jepson is published on July 31st 2014 by Siri Scientific Press.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of the University of Manchester Press Office in the compilation of this article.

Prehistoric Times Issue 110 Reviewed

A Review of the Summer 2014 Edition of Prehistoric Times Magazine

Featured on the front cover of issue 110 is a fantastic sculpture of an Giganotosaurus by the highly talented prehistoric animal sculptor Galileo Hernandez Nunez and inside the magazine, editor Mike Fredericks conducts an in depth interview with the Mexican artist and some of his amazing work is showcased.  Nice to hear that señor Hernandez loves the English language, his English is obviously much better than our Spanish.  During the interview, what inspires him is discussed as well as his influences and he makes some very interesting points about the future of palaeo-sculpture with the advent of affordable three-dimensional printers.  The theme of 3-D printing is taken up by Mike Eischen in a special feature on digital dinosaurs.

The Front Cover of Prehistoric Times Magazine (110)

Giganotosaurus on the front cover.

Giganotosaurus on the front cover.

Picture Credit: Mike Fredericks

Fans of prehistoric snakes will be delighted to hear that Titanoboa (T. cerrejonensis) and other massive serpents are featured in the magazine.

The description of this enormous snake certainly captured imaginations when it was first described over five years ago now.  Phil Hore does a splendid job writing about the multitude of “twenty footers plus” that have left traces of their existence preserved in the fossil record.  Our article on the discovery of Titanoboa remains one of the most popular news stories that we have covered on this blog site.

To read an article on the discovery of Titanoboa: Huge Prehistoric Snake from Columbia

Phil is also responsible for producing the article on the early representative of the Centrosaurine horned dinosaurs “Devil Horned Face” – Diabloceratops and once again the article is very informative and accompanied with lots of reader submitted artwork.  Reports on visits to a number of dinosaur exhibits, museums and attractions are provided including an article about the Der Sauiermuseum in Switzerland, an establishment that we at Everything Dinosaur know very well.

The magazine is also packed full of information for model makers, book reviews and news stories, we especially like the feature by Robert Telleria on dinosaur calendars and the hints and tips on prehistoric dioramas written by Fred M. Snyder.

Once again a very well written and produced magazine for the dinosaur enthusiast.

To learn more about Prehistoric Times and to subscribe: Prehistoric Times Magazine

To conclude this brief review, we ought to give a special mention to Tracy Lee Ford, who tackles the eye-opening topic of palpebral bones in Ornithischian dinosaurs.  The palpebral is a small bone found in the region of the eye socket in certain groups of animals such as monitor lizards and eagles (Everything Dinosaur team members think crocodilians have them too).  It is also found in the fossil record in marine reptiles and Ornithischian dinosaurs but not as far as we are aware in the Saurischia.  The function of this bone remains a bit of a mystery.  It can be pointed, prong-like or curved and Tracy Lee Ford covers how this anatomical feature would alter the appearance of a dinosaur such as an iguanodontid.  Dinosaurs with scowls and fierce looking expressions indeed.

Prehistoric Times Next Issue out Soon

Prehistoric Times Issue 110

The next issue of Prehistoric Times, the quarterly magazine for dinosaur fans and model enthusiasts is out shortly.  Mike Fredericks (editor) sent team members a sneak preview of the magazine’s front cover.

Prehistoric Times (Summer 2014)

Next issue out soon.

Next issue out soon.

Picture Credit: Mike Fredericks

How time flies, it does not seem that long since we were celebrating issue 100.  The dinosaur featured on the front cover is “giant southern lizard” – Giganotosaurus (Giganotosaurus carolini).  This is a wonderful sculpture by the highly talented Galileo Hernandez of Mexico.  An interview with the artist is included in this edition.  We are also expecting a review of the new book written by Julius Csotonyi and Steve White entitled “The Paleoart of Julius Csotonyi”, can’t wait for the magazine to arrive at the Everything Dinosaur offices.

To visit the Prehistoric Times website: Visit Prehistoric Times

Once team members have received their copy and read it a review will be posted up on our blog.

The Dinosaur Four – Summer Reading

Fiction for Older Dinosaur Fans

Everything Dinosaur team members undertake a lot of work with students who are in the formal education system.   Part of our focus, particularly with primary schools, is to help teachers by encouraging children to write about dinosaurs and prehistoric animals.  We are keen to see the children’s creative writing and yesterday, we wrote a short blog article about the letters received from a Key Stage 1 class in Lancashire.  However, in the United Kingdom many adults struggle with reading and writing.  The National Literacy Trust has reported that about five percent of adults in England have literacy levels below those expected of a child aged eleven.  That is something like 1.7 million adults.

We do what we can to encourage adults to read more, the mums and dads that we meet on our travels, when team members are working in museums and other institutions.  One of the best ways to get back into reading, to gain more confidence as a reader and to increase your vocabulary is to read books which relate to your hobbies and interests.  Over the weekend, we heard about a new novel written with the science fiction/dinosaur enthusiast in mind, the book is called “The Dinosaur Four”, written by Colorado based Geoff Jones.

 The Front Cover “The Dinosaur Four”

The Dinosaur Four

The Dinosaur Four

Picture Credit: Geoff Jones

Colorado is a great place for a writer of dinosaur themed novels to come from, after all, the state fossil of Colorado is Stegosaurus!  This book has already attracted a number of very positive reviews:

A vivid journey through time!

“If you are looking for a good book for the summer, look no further!  Going back in time with this ensemble cast was a thrilling and visceral adventure.  I highly recommend digging your teeth into this tasty novel.”

Dino-tastic!

“I loved this book.  It was exactly what a book about dinosaurs should be: a fast paced adventure that’s exciting and smart.  I enjoyed the characters almost as much as I enjoyed reading the descriptions of the dinosaurs they encountered.  Highly recommended.”

The book has been described as a Stephen King-style science fiction thriller and it tells the dramatic story of ten ordinary folk who find themselves transported back some sixty-six million years to the Late Cretaceous.

In the notes we received, the plot is briefly outlined..

Business is brisk at the Daily Edition Cafe as Tim MacGregor arrives to meet his new girlfriend.  Two joggers enjoy a hit of caffeine before work.  A delivery man takes a break from his route.  Behind the counter, the baristas are busy brewing, frothing, and pouring.  However, on this morning, the cafe and the people inside are suddenly transported millions of years into the past.

Ten strangers find themselves in the world of Triceratops horridus and Tyrannosaurus rex.  Three survivors compete for leadership of the group, while another plots to keep them all in the past. Tim only wants to find out what caused the disaster and how to get home.

With a background in the video game industry and with a degree in creative writing from the University of Colorado, Geoff’s debut novel “The Dinosaur Four” is described as a fast-paced action-adventure mixed with carnage and suspense in the tradition of Jaws, the Mist and Jurassic Park.  For those grown-ups getting their prehistoric animal fix with the movie Godzilla, but who can’t wait for Jurassic World to come out next year, this book might be just what they need to fill the gap.

Triceratops horridus – features in “The Dinosaur Four”

Bringing "three horned face" to life.

Bringing “three horned face” to life.

Picture Credit: Julius Csotonyi

As the summer holidays approach, perhaps this is one book that dinosaur fans might want to consider adding to their reading list.

To learn more about the book and where it can be purchased, visit the authors website: Geoff Jones Writer

A word of warning though, this novel deals with adult themes, it is not suitable for children.

The Paleoart of Julius Csotonyi Reviewed

A Review of “The Paleoart of Julius Csotonyi”

Julius Csotonyi is one of those rare breed of scientific illustrators who is able to combine anatomical accuracy and scientific detail with vivid imagination and a flare for the digital medium.  His artwork has graced a number of natural history museums around the world, his pictures helping to inform, educate and inspire.  Titan Books has just published a hardback book which gives dinosaur fans and general readers alike the opportunity to learn more about this artist, how he works and to view a collection of some of the stunning images that he has created since his hobby turned into a full-time profession.

Launched this Week – “The Paleoart of Julius Csotonyi”

The front cover of this new hardback book.

The front cover of this new hardback book.

Picture Credit: Titan Books/Julius Csotonyi

Co-written by Steve White, the book showcases the drawings and digital artwork of Julius Csotonyi.  Visitors to the Royal Tyrrell Museum (Alberta, Canada), the Houston Museum of Natural Science or indeed to the newly refurbished Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County will already be familiar with a lot of Julius’s work as he has been commissioned to create murals and back drops for a number of exhibits in these museums.  However, the lighting in many galleries is quite poor and this book permits the viewer to appreciate the craft of the palaeoartist in glorious colour.

There is a brief foreward written by Dr. David Evans (Royal Ontario Museum, Canada), which helps to set the artwork in context.  With a doctorate in microbiology and as a pioneer in merging true-life photography with digital images, Julius has been able to bring a unique set of skills to the drawing board of scientific illustration.  The equally eminent Dr. Bob Bakker chips in to explain how images are created using a meticulous study of fossil data and a case study is provided focusing on how the diet of Dimetrodonts was interpreted.

Creating Images from the Fossil Evidence

Permian scene (Texas Red Beds)

Permian scene (Texas Red Beds)

Picture Credit: Titan Books/Houston Museum of Natural History/Julius Csotonyi

An ” In Conversation” piece follows, an in depth interview which discusses early influences, outlines the creative process and explores aspects of Julius’s work.  There are also some handy tips and advice on hand for budding artists trying to break into the field of palaeontological illustration.  The rest of the book, the vast majority of the 156 pages or so, showcases the artwork and illustrations.  The images are laid out by geological Era, starting with the Palaeozoic, the Mesozoic follows and then comes the Cenozoic.  By far the largest portion of the book is dedicated to illustrations of Mesozoic fauna and flora and much of this features the Dinosauria, so dinosaur fans will have plenty to view.

Bringing the Early Permian to Life

An early Permian landscape.

An early Permian landscape.

Picture Credit: Titan Books/Commission: Gondwana Studios/Julius Csotonyi

 Brief notes accompany the illustrations helping to provide context and to explain what is being depicted. One small criticism, there is not much of a key for the casual reader to help them interpret what is being shown.  A simplified drawing with a number key would help point out some of the subtle nuances depicted and assist with the identification of the various prehistoric animals and plants that make up the scene.

Fantastic Dinosaur Illustrations

Bringing "three horned face" to life.

Bringing “three horned face” to life.

Picture Credit: Titan Books/College of Charleston/Julius Csotonyi

Throughout the book, there are short sections that focus on how one individual animal or group of animals are depicted.  For example, information is provided on how Tiktaalik, a fish that possessed anatomical characteristics that link it to the first Tetrapods, was illustrated, more detail is provided on how a Utahraptor assemblage was interpreted and there is a special feature on the early Chinese Tyrannosaur known as Guanlong.  However, the real stars are the artwork and imagery, credit to the publishers here for reproducing the pictures in such high quality.

Plenty of Illustrations of Theropod Dinosaurs Too

Tyrannosaurs on the beach.

Tyrannosaurs on the beach.

Picture Credit: Titan Books/Julius Csotonyi

In the picture above, a pair of Tyrannosaurs (Lythronax argestes) inspect the carcase of a large prehistoric shark (Squalicorax), whilst two enantiornithine birds hope to pick up some scraps.  Many of the illustrations included in this book had been commissioned to help publicise news stories featuring recent fossil discoveries to the general media.

A spokes person from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“As well as commissions for various exhibits at natural history museums, this book contains a number of scientific illustrations that had been specifically commissioned for use in press releases in order to help boost public awareness of recent fossil discoveries.  Julius has a rare talent for helping to put flesh on bones and bring back from the dead ancient, extinct creatures.  He portrays long disappeared environments in an imaginative way and through his work he is helping to inform and inspire the next generation of scientists.”

Newly Described Pachycephalosaur (A. audeti)

Acrotholus audeti disturbs a freshwater turtle (Neurankylus lithographicus) which had been soaking in a dinosaur footprint.

Acrotholus audeti disturbs a freshwater turtle (Neurankylus lithographicus) which had been soaking in a dinosaur footprint.

Picture Credit: Titan Books/Evans et al/Julius Csotonyi

This book may be divided up into sections based on geological Eras, but within each section the illustrations themselves are not shown in geological time scale order.  For example, a mural showing the environment from the Campanian faunal stage as represented by the Dinosaur Provincial Park Formation of Canada, precedes illustrations on the armoured dinosaur Sauropelta and the Early Jurassic Pterosaur Dimorphodon.  For fans of the age of mammals, the book concludes with a number of illustrations depicting fauna and flora of the Cenozoic, from Sabre-toothed cats to Arctic camels.

The Prehistoric Whale Dorudon Cruises into View

Digital painting and photographic composite showing Dorudon.

Digital painting and photographic composite showing Dorudon.

Picture Credit: Titan Books/Look at Sciences/Julius Csotonyi

There is a useful, but short glossary at the back of the book along with a geological time scale.  Putting aside the fact that this book has utilised the American spelling for a number of terms, not surprising really given the focus on artwork from North America and Julius’s Canadian nationality, this makes an excellent addition to a dinosaur fan or general reader’s book collection.

Highly recommended.

Prehistoric Times Magazine Issue 109 Reviewed

A Review of Prehistoric Times Magazine (Spring 2014)

Another bursting at the seams edition of Prehistoric Times with its front cover of a Chasmosaurus (model by Shane Foulkes) highlighting the fact that “Chasm Lizard” is one of the prehistoric animals featured in issue 109.  Phil Hore does an excellent job on summarising the rather convoluted history of this genus and his article has some super Chasmosaurus inspired artwork sent in by readers.  Not to be undone, Tracy Lee Ford chips in with a detailed explanation of the various species assigned to Chasmosaurus and does a splendid job in sorting out which of the former members of the Chasmosaurus genus have been reassigned elsewhere and why.  In addition, he even manages to insert a little bit of the work of Charles Dickens and we though Dicken’s only wrote about Megalosaurs (Bleak House).

Prehistoric Times (Issue 109)

Beautiful Chasmosaurus on the front cover.

Beautiful Chasmosaurus on the front cover.

Picture Credit: Prehistoric Times/Everything Dinosaur

In the news section, there is information on Nanuqsaurus hoglundi, whose fossils were find well inside the Arctic Circle.  It’s name means “polar bear lizard” which is very appropriate.  News stories featured include Anzu wyliei from North Dakota and possibly the largest Theropod dinosaur known from our side of the Atlantic, Torvosaurus gurneyi.  T. gurneyi fossils have been found in Portugal, this is a specimen that we at Everything Dinosaur know quite well, what with the amount of new discoveries being reported to us by our friends on the Iberian peninsula.

To read more about Torvosaurus gurneyi: Meet “Savage Lizard” – Europe’s Largest Meat-Eating Dinosaur Described to Date?

Allen Debus takes us back to the 1930′s a time when Chicago was host to the Worlds Fair which featured an exhibition of life-size prehistoric animals.  Part two of this highly informative article will be in the next edition.

To read more about Prehistoric Times/subscribe: Prehistoric Times Magazine

Lots of model news and reviews, plus a super section dedicated to giant prehistoric birds, with a focus on the Ratites.  Once again, the article is accompanied by some excellent reader artwork and imagery.  Sculptor and artist John Gurche is interviewed and there is a special feature on how John was tasked with creating fifteen hominin sculptures for the Smithsonian Institute and its “Hall of Human Origins”.  Some of the models he has produced are simply breathtaking, the Smithsonian will shortly become the  museum for all other palaeoanthropologists to look up to.  John’s book “Shaping Humanity: How Science, Art and Imagination Help Us to Understand Our Origins” is reviewed in the excellent Mesozoic Media section and the book is already on our Christmas shopping list along with ironically, another book reviewed, “At the Top of the Grand Staircase”, which documents the fauna and flora from the Upper Cretaceous deposits to be found in this part of southern Utah.

All in all, an excellent magazine jam packed with lots and lots to keep dinosaur fans entertained and informed.

Prehistoric Times (Winter 2014) Reviewed

Prehistoric Times Winter 2014

With team members at Everything Dinosaur  undertaking a lot of work in schools over the next few weeks, any members of staff staying away from the office will have plenty to read as the new edition of Prehistoric Times (issue 104) has arrived.  Editor, Mike Fredericks proudly states that this latest edition of the quarterly magazine for fans of prehistoric animal models and everything to do with dinosaurs is “really special” and we are not going to disagree, as it is packed from cover to cover with lots of amazing prehistoric animal artwork, model and book reviews, articles and updates on the world of palaeontology.

Let’s start by singing the praises of the front cover.  Issue 108 (winter 2014) is adorned by a brilliantly evocative piece of art by that very talented artist and illustrator Fabio Pastori.  Fabio depicts a feathered Allosaurus battling a Stegosaurus, whilst Late Jurassic birds flap their wings in earnest to escape the mayhem.

Prehistoric Times (Issue 108)

Everything Dinosaur reviews Prehistoric Times (winter 2014)

Everything Dinosaur reviews Prehistoric Times (winter 2014)

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Prehistoric Times

Super artwork Fabio, one of our favourite covers was your Dilophosaurus illustration on the front cover of issue 88, now we might just have to change our minds having seen the wonderful artwork on the latest edition of Prehistoric Times.

One of the great things about this magazine is the regular feature “How to Draw Dinosaurs”, written by Tracy Lee Ford.  His contribution deals with recent developments in the study of Hadrosaurs (Saurolophinae), updating readers on changes in how these Ornithopods may be illustrated with the discovery of a soft crest on the skull of a specimen of Edmontosaurus regalis discovered near the city of Grande Prairie in Canada.  Everything Dinosaur wrote a short article about this amazing fossil find, one that could change the way that duck-billed dinosaurs are depicted in the future, when the academic paper was published in “Current Biology”.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s article: Duck-Billed Dinosaur with a Comb like a Rooster

The article contains lots of interesting insights into Saurolophinae skull morphology, with some handy line drawings to help get the main points across.

The two prehistoric animals featured in this issue are Australovenator and the enormous ancient ape Gigantopithecus.  Phil Hore goes over the finer details of these very diverse members of the fossil record and there are lots of amazing reader’s artwork included too.    A big opposable thumbs up to Phil, especially for his highly informative and well-written article on Gigantopithecus.

Amongst all the updates on dinosaur collectibles and new model releases, there is an interview with artist David Krentz and his involvement in the 3-D “Walking with Dinosaurs” movie that is currently on release, plus the latest news concerning the Canadian-produced spin-off to the British television series “Primeval”.  Look out for the book reviews and the highly informative overview of 2013 from a palaeontologist’s perspective written by the well-travelled Steve Brusatte.  Now residing north of the border, Steve’s passion for palaeontology has taken him to Scotland to take up a post as a research fellow for the University of Edinburgh.

Prehistoric animals on stamps are a theme for the winter edition, with an article by James Gurney that details the work behind the production of a set of postage stamps commissioned by Australia Post showcasing the diversity of Mesozoic fauna from down under.  British prehistoric animals get a look in too, as there is a feature on the twelve first class stamps illustrated by John Sibbick for Royal Mail.  The stamps, originally commissioned to celebrate the centenary of the book “The Lost World” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle were delayed by Team GB’s success at the 2012 Olympics but were released in October of last year.

To read more about the stamps from Royal Mail: Royal Mail Issues New Prehistoric Animal Stamps

John Sibbick’s artwork is superb and in Prehistoric Times he talks through how he went about depicting prehistoric fauna strongly associated with the British Isles.  The stamps were released to celebrate over 150 years of the study of palaeontology in the United Kingdom, Everything Dinosaur got involved with this project when they were asked to write the cover notes and information on the extinct creatures featured in the set.  It was fun!

There’s a lot packed into the latest edition, look out for the review of a visit to the famous Natural History Museum of Berlin, as well as interviews with dinosaur sculptors Allen Debus and Bob Morales, Everything Dinosaur even gets a mention in the editorial.

We asked our chum, Mike to give our Facebook page a plug, we are on a mission to get “likes” for our boss “Tyrannosaurus Sue”.

Hit the Facebook Logo to Visit Everything Dinosaur on Facebook

Click the logo to visit our Facebook page and to give our page a "like".

Click the logo to visit our Facebook page and to give our page a “like”.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

All in all, thoroughly recommended, a definite inclusion in our travel bags and overnight gear as team members spend the next few weeks on their adventures.

To learn more about Prehistoric Times visit the website: Prehistoric Times Magazine

Congratulations to Safari Ltd, as their Gryposaurus dinosaur model was voted “Best New Toy” by Prehistoric Times readers.

Deposits Magazine (Issue 36) Reviewed

A Review of Issue 36 (Winter 2013/14) of Deposits Magazine

The latest edition of “Deposits” magazine arrived at Everything Dinosaur the other day and what a jam-packed edition it is.  In the previous issue there was an article all about Pliocene micro-fossils and a beautiful image of the foraminifera Polystomiella vuispa, can be seen on the front cover.

Inside, there is an eclectic mix of articles on fossils, geology and palaeontology from a number of international contributors.  For example, there is a brief feature summarising the latest research into Late Cretaceous Elasmosaurid fossils from Morocco and the preceding pages detail a successful fossil hunting trip to Abereiddy Bay (Pembrokeshire, Wales) to study those enigmatic, bizarre graptolites.  Graptolites are/were (see below) a group of tiny animals that lived in colonies and built minute tubular homes for themselves.  Graptolite fossils look like pencil markings or saw-blades preserved in strata and a number of species are important in helping to identify geological biozones.  If you thought that the graptolites were extinct then this article is worth reading as it proposes a link between Graptolites and extant Pterobranchs.

Deposits Magazine Issue 36

Issue 36

Issue 36

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Geologists will get their kicks from a very informative article from Dr. Trevor Watts and his trip to Iceland to journey down the emptied-out magma chamber of a volcano.  For those of us who stay closer to home there is an article all about classifying Ammonites as well as a super article all about Doncaster (South Yorkshire) and this part of Yorkshire’s hidden treasures in terms of geology and palaeontology.  Lots of fossil finds, a number of news snippets and an update on a series of articles on how the tropics drives speciation.  All in all, this magazine makes a wonderful read, and with the dark nights and long days in the Everything Dinosaur offices, it is a welcome magazine, one that will help us plan a few fossil hunting excursions of our own.

Prehistoric Times Issue 107 Reviewed

Everything Dinosaur Reviews the Autumn Issue of Prehistoric Times Magazine

Issue 107 of Prehistoric Times, the magazine for dinosaur fans and serious model collectors has arrived in the office and fans of the artwork of John Sibbick are going to be delighted with the front cover.  The illustration of  two Allosaurs fighting over the carcase of a Camptosaurus was painted by John, a man who has been much in demand recently, as he was responsible for the prehistoric animal paintings that now adorn the new Royal Mail First Class stamps that came into circulation last week.  Inside the magazine, its sixty-two pages are jam packed with lots of features, articles and illustrations.  There is a profile and interview of  commercial illustrator Jerry LoFaro and in the light of the news that Jurassic Park IV (Jurassic World) is likely to be in cinemas by the summer of 2015, dinosaur expert Gregory S. Paul gives his view on the “JP” franchise.

Prehistoric Times Autumn 2013 

The autumn (fall) edition of Prehistoric Times magazine.

The autumn (fall) edition of Prehistoric Times magazine.

Picture Credit: Mike Fredericks/Everything Dinosaur

Utahraptor and Uintatherium are the prehistoric animals showcased in this edition.  There are lots of pictures and drawings submitted by readers and Phil Hore provides a highly informative text, focusing on the largest of the Dromaeosaurs and on the mighty Eocene, herbivorous mammal with the strange and bumpy appearance.  Surprisingly, Utahraptor features in a Star Trek novel, the things you learn about when reading Prehistoric Times.  Tracy Lee Ford gets in on the act and provides a master-class in Dromaeosaurid illustration, including some interpretations of the very latest scientific data.  He also edits the Paleonews page, covering topics as diverse as Ichthyosaur evolution, Chelonia and giant Pterosaurs.

On the subject of the Pterosauria, for all those who haven’t quite got their fill of flying reptiles after reading the wonderful “Pterosaurs” by Mark Witton, there is a super article all about the attempts to replicate Pterosaur flight, in particular that of the likes of the Azhdarchid Quetzalcoatlus.  Amongst the reviews and product updates, the magazine’s editor, Mike Fredericks sheds some light on some amazing dinosaur themed items from the past in collector’s corner, look out for the “deliberate” mistakes on Mike’s “What’s New in Review” page, whoops!

Issue 107 even features an article on prehistoric themed roadside attractions in the United States, there is something for everybody in the autumn edition, the Prehistoric Times team must have some sort of space-aged print compactor that enables them to squeeze it all into one magazine.  Another triumph, one to read by the fireside as the nights draw in.

To subscribe to Prehistoric Times: Prehistoric Times Magazine

Pterosaurs by Mark P. Witton – A Book Review

Pterosaurs Reviewed

Amongst the myriad of books published on the subject of long extinct creatures, it is the dinosaurs that seem to have had the lion’s share of the limelight, their Mesozoic contemporaries the Pterosaurs, have largely been overlooked.  However, this new publication, written by palaeontologist and science writer Mark Witton entitled “Pterosaurs” goes a long way to redressing this imbalance.  These “winged lizards”, as that is what the term Pterosaurs means once translated from Greek, were the first vertebrates to develop powered flight, nothing like them exists today but thanks to Mark’s skilful writing accompanied by a number of his own original paintings and some exquisite close up shots of these enigmatic animal’s beautifully preserved fossil remains, the reader is rapidly brought up to date with developments in flying reptile research.

The book is essentially split into three distinct parts.  The first nine chapters are dedicated to providing a broad understanding of Pterosaur evolution, the fossil evidence, their flight abilities and locomotion.  If you have ever wondered how an animal as tall as a giraffe could possibly get off the ground, or where the Pterosauria fit into the Sauropsida (reptiles and birds) family tree, then these pages will go a long way to providing you with the answers. The bulk of the rest of the book is then dedicated to introducing and discussing the numerous Pterosaur groups currently recognised by the majority of “Pterosaurologists” and what a bizarre, eclectic collection the Pterosaurs prove to be.  From the stout jawed, long-tailed Dimorphodontidae, through to the flamboyant Tapejaridae culminating in those giraffe-sized Azhdarchids, Mark attempts to introduce each group roughly in chronological order, focusing first on the earliest types of Pterosaurs and concluding with the very last of their kind.  Most members of the public can recognise one or two types of flying reptile, thanks largely to their role as flying terrors in films, on television and the ubiquitous use of Pteranodon as a flying reptile model included in most dinosaur toy sets.  By the end of chapter twenty-five, the reader has been given a comprehensive run down of the cast of characters that currently make up the Pterosauria Order.

Pterosaurs – Natural History, Evolution, Anatomy by Mark P. Witton

A very well researched and documented publication from an authority on the Pterosauria.

A very well researched and documented publication from an authority on the Pterosauria.

Picture Credit: Mark Witton

The picture above shows the front jacket illustration, the Pterosaur featured is the “antler crested” Nyctosaurus (chapter 18).

Some knowledge of biology, anatomy and scientific terminology would be useful, but to Mark’s credit he works hard to simplify and explain the nuances of these bizarre creatures in a language that enables the lay person to follow the points that are being made without necessarily dumbing down the scientific tone of the book.  From our own perspective, with some knowledge of vertebrate palaeontology already, we found some of the details on the latest fossil discoveries, most notably from the Crato Formation (Brazil) and China’s Jiufotang Formation truly enlightening.  In each chapter dedicated to a specific type of Pterosaur, Mark provides a skeletal reconstruction and life restoration of a typical member of this part of the Pterosaur family tree.  This permits the reader to flick backwards and forwards thus comparing the different anatomical features of each type of Pterosaur with relative ease.  A personal bugbear of ours, a fault found in many a technical tome on palaeontology that attempts to reach out to a wider audience, that of having illustrations supporting points made in the text, placed on subsequent pages and not adjacent to the text that the illustration refers to, is largely avoided.  The excellent drawings and diagrams, including a number of Mark’s own paintings help to explain some of the more complex points made.

One diagram that we found ourselves constantly referring to occurs in chapter six, the part of the book that attempts to answer the most fundamental questions regarding the Pterosauria, why did they fly and were they any good at it?  The author has very helpfully reproduced a graphical representation that compares and contrasts Pterosaur wing loadings and aspect ratios with modern fliers (birds and bats).  From this single graph, the reader is given the opportunity to view the different morphologies of Pterosaurs in terms of their adaptations to certain types of aerial activity.  Thus, one can see at a glance those members of the Pterosauria that most likely filled an ecological niche similar to some of today’s sea-birds as marine soarers as well as those flying reptiles more adapted to inland, arboreal habitats where they filled an ecological niche similar to extant aerial predators.

A Curious Sordes pilosus investigates a Late Jurassic land snail

Eyeing up a potential meal?

Eyeing up a potential meal?

Picture Credit: Mark Witton

The book has an extensive reference section, inviting the reader to explore the world of the Pterosaurologist further.  A couple of small quibbles on our part, a glossary of terms at the back of the book would have been helpful as would a Pterosauria pronunciation guide but apart from these ever so minor points, Mark is to be congratulated for casting a comprehensive spotlight onto these remarkable reptiles.

The last chapter of “Pterosaurs” deals with the decline and final extinction of these leathery-winged creatures, although a little brief, it does leave the reader with a real sense of loss.  These were not the misfits of vertebrate evolution, not simply a stop-gap before the Aves could step into their flying boots and dominate the skies, the book does much to change attitudes towards the Pterosauria.  Yes, they were bizarre, but as a group they persisted for something like 150 million years, a lot longer than us hominids and that’s a sobering thought.

Highly recommended.

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