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Dinosaur Odyssey: Fossil Threads in the Web of Life Paperback – June 28, 2011

4.7 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

If one day you saw a Torvosaurus looking through your second-story window, would it be able to live on the vegetation it found? Dinosaurs, paleontologist Sampson stresses throughout this book, were part of a complex ecosystem, and to understand these beasts, we must also understand the plants and other animals they shared it with, along with factors such as the position of the continents and climate change. Sampson's sprawling study is one of the most comprehensive surveys of dinosaurs and their worlds to date. The author discusses in detail plant life during different dinosaur eras (e.g., there were no flowering plants) and even what insects would have scurried beneath them. Who knew that fossilized fecal matter hid so many clues to a dinosaur's dinner millions of years ago? Sampson addresses the ever popular subject of dinosaur extinctions and develops a comprehensive theory encompassing various dinosaur generations. Highly recommended for all dinosaur fans, although the writing may prove a bit too scholarly for younger buffs. Color and b&w illus., b&w photos. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"A wonderful book, crammed with information that will surprise you."--"Truthdig"

"This thought-provoking book is a must read not only for dinosaur enthusiasts and science educators but anyone interested in the larger context of life."--"Magill's Literary Annual / Salem Press"

"Sampson is right on target. . . . There is no better overview available than 'Dinosaur Odyssey.'"--"Earth Magazine"

"A great in-depth read for those seriously interested in the history of dinosaurs."--"Dig"

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (June 28, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520269896
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520269897
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.8 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #841,510 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
If you have even a casual interest in dinosaurs, please get this book. I don't hesitate recommending it to anyone.
Get it for the information on dinosaurs. But you'll love it for the engaging text and the way you will feel part of Dr. Sampson's world. And once you are draw in, you'll be amazed at what else you might learn beyond the world of dinosaurs.
If you know just a little about dinosaurs, I'm sure you know who Dr. Scott Sampson is due to his commentary on dinosaur videos and now on the PBS tyke show "Dinosaur Train." I saw this book at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and then again at the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh. If those two institutions put it on their bookshelves, there might be something special about the book. The forward by Philip Currie praises the book: "looks not just at dinosaurs but also the at the myriad life-forms that shared their ecosystem, from bacteria to birds. This is done deliberately to show how life-forms interact to form complex, interdependent systems." And what an extraordinary job! Beyond pretty illustrations and art, Dr. Sampson is able to make the whole ecosystem of dinosaurs come to life. But what sends this book beyond the commonplace is the epilogue. If you are not getting the fact that Dr. Sampson is showing you that the same natural laws and processes that operate in the dinosaur's days are the same that are operating today, the epilogue will make it perfectly clear. Here, while talking about the "sixth great extinction event" (the one that we are currently experiencing), the author clearly states how we are part of the interdependent web of all existence. But beyond that, he shows how we need to revise our educational system and the teaching of science to bring awareness of that interconnectivity.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
My daughter is a Dinosaur Train fanatic. It's a great show, and she has learned a lot, not only about dinosaurs, but about ecosystems and biology in general. On a recent trip to the Field Museum in Chicago to see the dinosaur fossils in person with her I found this book in the gift shop, with a sticker pointing out that it was by the Dr Scott from the show. Of course, I had to read it. It's a very good, up to date, summary of current thought on dinosaurs, by someone with great passion for the subject. It is very understandable even for someone without an extensive scientific background. And it does a good job of explaining why an understanding of the earth's biological past is still relevant today. My daughter isn't quite four, and this is definitely a book for grown ups, so it's not a book that I can share with her immediately, but I am getting a lot of joy out of sharing her interest in dinosaurs and this book answered a lot of the questions that the more pre school appropriate books had left in my mind.
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Format: Hardcover
Like so many other young boys, I loved dinosaurs. My parents would get me books about their world and I would just stare, longingly, at the pictures. I dreamed that there was some obscure mountain valley, a Shangri-La, deep in the Himalayas or an island, far out in the Pacific, where the lived on. But alas, they are gone, like their far older trilobite cousins.
Scott Sampson's Dinosaur Odyssey brings this world back to life. This is a book for the very serious amateur dinosaur lover. I really enjoyed the author's love of complexity, for many of the most core issues about how dinosaurs lived are still mysteries. His discussions on the areas of dinosaur metabolism and evolution were particularly fascinating. Sampson does not take the easy road. Rather, he treats his readers with respect. The interplay of evolution and ecology is not always a simple one and Sampson takes the reader into these occasionally murky areas of research and conjecture in ways that are endlessly intriguing. These discussions became rather complex and I really enjoyed the challenge of fully understanding them. His writing style is both technical and passionate. His love for paleontology shines on every page. I found myself even a little jealous of the author, for so many years ago I considered becoming one myself as a geology minor as an undergraduate. After reading Dinosaur Odyssey, I suspect I made the wrong choice.
With all we seem to know about the world of dinosaurs, I now realize that so many of the key questions continue to be mysteries. What was it like to wander along a Cretaceous era river? How did the air smell (Sampson does make some inferences about this)? Did these giant beasts make lots of sounds? Was there constant terror in the air wondering just how close a Tyrannosaurus might be?
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Dinosaur Odyssey takes you on a dinosaur-centric tour of the epic of evolution that literally starts with the Big Bang. The scope of this 332-page book is every bit as expansive as that sentence implies. By page 97, Dr. Scott has treated his readers to clear and entertaining discussions of the Big Bang, geothermal processes, continental drift theory, ecology, evolution, and weather patterns. In the second half of the book, Dr. Scott discusses more obviously paleontological topics, including Mesozoic food chains, predator-prey relationships, climate change and its effect on dinosaur evolution, and inevitably, extinction. There's even a chapter devoted to explaining exactly why Jurassic Park couldn't happen. Along the way, Dr. Scott weaves in fascinating information about the various dinosaur discoveries paleontologists have made in the past twenty-five years.

Processing all that information is no small task. Fortunately, Dr. Scott takes Albert Einstein's principle of science writing to heart: "Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler."

Take for example, his discussion of plate tectonics in Chapter 4, in which Dr. Scott uses the image of a lava lamp to describe the action of convection forces in the Earth's mantle (p. 56).

There's plenty of humor sprinkled throughout the book as well. For example, in describing the paleontological debate over whether the T. Rex was primarily a hunter or a scavenger of dead meat, Dr. Scott makes the wry comment that the scavenger theory "effectively relegate[s] Tyrannosaurus to the status of prehistory's biggest maggot."

If you love dinosaurs, you'll love this book.

(Read more at my blog, BostonWriters.wordpress.com.)
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