SD: Good, semi-good, and bad dino sources 1

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Hi everybody,

This post was inspired by Holtz's "A Dinosaur Lover's Bookshelf" (… ). It's nothing formal, just a list of what I (as a non-expert dino fan) think are especially notable dino sources (for better or worse) & why. Even still, I hope that at least some of you will get something out of it. 2 more things of note: 1) Just in case you were wondering, the sources aren't listed in any particular order; 2) If you don't know what I mean by "casual readers"/"the enthusiast"/"the specialist", see Miller's "Paleo Reading List" ( whenpigsfly-returns.blogspot.c… ).

Herman Diaz


Holtz's "Dinosaurs: The Most Complete, Up-to-Date Encyclopedia for Dinosaur Lovers of All Ages" (… ) & Gardom/Milner's "The Natural History Museum Book of Dinosaurs" (… ) are the best encyclopedic & non-encyclopedic dino books, respectively, for casual readers. Taylor's review of the former (… ) & Amazon's synopsis of the latter (… ) sum up most of the reasons why, but not the most important reason: Holtz & the NHM keep updates on "Supplementary Information for Holtz's Dinosaurs" (… ) & "The Dino Directory" (… ), respectively, when parts of said books become outdated.

Hone ("David Hone": ) reminds me of a young Holtz in both research (… ) & outreach ( ). I hope he writes dino books like Holtz too, someday. Until then, see his technical papers (for free) under "Academic" & his blogs ("Lost Worlds"/"Archosaur Musings" for casual readers/the enthusiast, respectively) under "Outreach".

You could say Conway et al. ("All Yesterdays: Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals":… ) are the A-Team of paleoart: Naish does the paleontology ("Darren Naish | palaeozoological researcher, consultant, author, lecturer": );* Conway does the art ("John Conway's Art": ); Kosemen drives the van ("C. M. Kosemen": ). ;)

*Naish's popular dino books (excluding "All Yesterdays: Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals", which is for the enthusiast)/blogs are for casual readers/the enthusiast, respectively.


Cau ("AndreaCau":… ) is a consistently good source of phylogenetic info for the enthusiast (See "5. Blog, articoli/recensioni giornalistiche e pagine web dedicate alle mie ricerche")/the specialist (See "3. Pubblicazioni / Publications"). However, he's also a consistently hit-&-miss source of other biological info for the enthusiast/the specialist.*

Celeskey's "Coelophysis - New Mexico's State Fossil" (… ) is basically Colbert's "The Little Dinosaurs of Ghost Ranch" (… ) in website form, the former being for casual readers & the latter for the enthusiast. I have mixed feelings about single species accounts. Martin's "Book Reviews" (… ) sums up why. In any case, it's the ultimate source of Coelophysis info.

GSPaul ("The Official Website of Gregory S. Paul - Paleoartist, Author and Scientist": ) is a mixed bag. Naish's "Greg Paul’s Dinosaurs: A Field Guide" (… ) sums up what I mean. In any case, see his technical papers (for free) & books under "CURRICULUM VITAE" for interesting yet controversial dino art/science.**

*E.g. According to Cau (See "First, we start with":…|en&tbb=1&ie=UTF-8 ), "no Mesozoic dinosaur...has offspring inept" (See "Opposed hypotheses" under "Testing ideas and community analysis" for why that's wrong:… ). Also according to Cau (See "Just the fact that":…|en&tbb=1&ie=UTF-8 ), "the fact that the children had early leads us to think that the animal did not need particular parental care and that was autonomous in search of food" (See "Precocial" & "Semi-precocial" for why that's misleading:… ).

**"Predatory Dinosaurs of the World: A Complete Illustrated Guide" (… )/"The Scientific American Book of Dinosaurs" (… )/"Dinosaurs of the Air: The Evolution and Loss of Flight in Dinosaurs and Birds" (… )/"The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs" (… ) are for the enthusiast/casual readers/the specialist/the enthusiast, respectively.


Hunter ("Cladistic Existentialism") is a BANDit (BAND = Birds Are Not Dinosaurs) & his website is basically a list of anti-cladistic writings (1 of which I reviewed:… ). His website's header (… ) sums up said writings in 2 major ways: 1) The depiction of non-bird dinos as "Jurassic Park" knock-offs (which is probably part of the reason why BANDits are compared to creationists:… ); 2) The statement about "determining the number of birds' fingers" (which, as indicated by the Naish quote, is blatantly hypocritical & misleading).

Peters ("Reptile Evolution") is a GSPaul wannabe & his website is basically a list of reasons why (according to him) he's great & everyone else is an idiot. Naish's "Why the world has to ignore" (… ) sums up what I mean.

There are 3 main reasons why Dr. Pterosaur/Doug Dobney ("Pterosaurs to Modern Birds") & Gwawinapterus/Johnfaa ("Gwawinapterus | Prehistoric esoterism") are bad sources of dino (or any other) info: 1) They're non-experts who act like they're experts; 2) They're infamous for trolling (… ) &/or cyberbullying (… ) people who don't think like them; 3) They're terrible at sourcing their work, never doing so unless it proves their point (They'll ignore any source that contradicts them).

Quoting Naish (See "All the fuss over those weird little hands":… ): "As you'll surely know, embryologists have often (though not always) argued that birds exhibit BDR, such that their tridactyl hands represent digits II, III and IV rather than the I, II and III thought universal among coelurosaurian theropods. Those who contend that birds cannot be theropods have latched on to this as an integral bit of their case: Alan Feduccia in particular has repeatedly said that bird hands and theropod hands are fundamentally different, and that this degree of difference bars theropods from avian ancestry (Burke & Feduccia 1997, Feduccia 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, Feduccia & Nowicki 2002) [developing ostrich hands from Feduccia & Nowicki (2002) shown below]. Yeah, as if one feature - no matter how profound or major - can somehow outweigh tens of others: what excellent science. The hypothesis (note: hypothesis) that bird hands represent digits II-IV rests mostly on the fact that the primary axis of condensation (the first digit precursor to appear in the embryonic hand) corresponds to digit IV: because bird embryos grow two fingers medial to this axis, these two must be digits III and II (incidentally, this is contested by some embryologists and is not universally accepted. To keep things as simple as possible, we'll ignore that for now).
Despite what Feduccia and his `birds are not dinosaurs' colleagues state, the morphological evidence showing that birds really are theropod dinosaurs is overwhelmingly good, so if birds and other theropods really do have different digit patterns in the hand, something unusual must have occurred during evolution. One idea is that a frame shift occurred: that is, that the condensation axes that originally produced topographical digits II-IV became modified during later development, such that the digits that grew in these places came to resemble topographical digits I-III instead of II-IV (Wagner & Gauthier 1999). If the frame shift hypothesis is valid, then - somewhere in theropod evolution - the `true' digit I was lost, and `true' digit II became digit I. However, evidence from Hox genes indicates that the condensation axis for embryonic digit I receives a Hox signal normally associated with.... topographical digit I, thereby showing that the bird `thumb' really IS the thumb (Vargas & Fallon 2005, Vargas et al. 2008)."
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Unequivocally bad. To quote Holtz ( SD: Holtz's A Dinosaur Lover's Bookshelf ), "there are signposts that point to the titles you can trust. The most significant discovery in dinosaur paleontology in recent decades, for example, is that birds are the direct descendants of dinosaurs--in other words, following modern conventions of classification, birds are the only living members of Dinosauria. A good book will recognize this discovery."
SpongeBobFossilPants's avatar
Good, this is.

Granted, this might fall outside your area of expertise, but could you do children's dinosaur books next time? They're even more hit-and-miss than most, with good stuff like Holtz's encyclopedia, semi-good stuff like Lessem's earlier work & bad stuff like Lessem's 2010 encyclopedia.
On 2nd thought, I probably will do another JE like this 1, but w/more children's stuff.
"Good, this is."

Thankful, I am. ;)

While I don't know if I'll do another JE like this 1, I do plan on making a Listmania! list of my favorite dino books for kids.