Dino factoids - names, dates, places, and features - are available in zillions of books and websites. We depart from a "Who? What? Where?" approach to dinosaurs, instead building a broad understanding of the natural sciences through the power of competing scientific hypotheses.
Unique among dinosaur textbooks, Dinosaurs is rooted in phylogenetic systematics. This follows current practice in evolutionary biology, and allows students to understand dinosaurs as professional paleontologists do. The cladograms used in this book have been uniquely drawn in a way that highlights the key hierarchical relationships they depict, ensuring that both the methods and conclusions of phylogenetic systematics remain accessible.
Long experience shows that students come to dinosaur courses with many preconceptions about the natural world; Dinosaurs asks them to think in new and revolutionary ways. For example, one of the great advances to come out of the past 20 years of dinosaur research is the recognition that living birds are dinosaurs. This somewhat startling conclusion leads to a couple of other counter-intuitive conclusions:
1. Birds are reptiles.
2. Dinosaurs didn't go extinct.
In this and in many other ways, our book will challenge students to reconsider their ideas about science and about their world.
Part I introduces the fundamental intellectual tools of the trade. Chapters 1 and 2 treat geology, the geological time scale, fossils, collecting, and what happens after the bones leave the field. The third chapter, a carefully crafted introduction to the logic of phylogenetic sys-tematics, uses familiar and common examples to acquaint students with the method. Chapter 4 takes students from basal Vertebrata to the two great groups of dinosaurs Ornithischia and Saurischia.
Parts II and III cover, respectively, Ornithischia and Saurischia. The chapters within Parts II and III cover the major groups within Dinosauria, treating them in terms of phylog-
eny and evolution, behavior, and lifestyle. Ornithischia comes before Saurischia to reinforce the fundamental point that, on the cladogram, the ordering of Ornithischia and Saurischia within a monophyletic Dinosauria makes no difference.
The phylogenetically most complex of dinosaur groups, Theropoda, is treated last in Part III, when students are best prepared to understand it. Three chapters cover the group: one for non-avian theropods, one on the evolution of birds from non-avian theropods, and one on the Mesozoic evolution of birds, since it was during the Mesozoic that birds acquired their modern form.
Part IV covers the aspects of the paleobiology of Dinosauria, from their metabolism, to the great rhythms that drove their evolution, to their extinction. A special chapter is devoted to the history of dinosaur paleontology. Although commonly introduced at the beginning of dinosaur books as a litany of names, dates, and discoveries, our history chapter - a history of ideas - is placed toward the end, so the thinking that currently drives the field can be understood in context. Yet we would cheat our readers if we left out accounts of the dinosaur hunters, whose colorful personalities and legendary exploits make up the lore of dinosaur paleontology; so we've included many of their stories as well.
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