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Riddle of the Feathered Dragons: Hidden Birds of China Hardcover – January 20, 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (January 20, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300164351
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300164350
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.1 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,934,308 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"…contains an immense amount of new information about the history of the contentious issue of the origin of birds…original and important."—Frances James, Florida State University, Department of Biological Science
(Frances James 2011-08-11)

"…a marvelous essay on method and interpretation in paleontology. And it wonderfully captures the fluid state of our knowledge and the tenuous state of our interpretations."—Keith Thomson, author of The Legacy of the Mastodon and The Young Charles Darwin
(Keith Thomson 2011-06-29)

"Writing with passion and verve, Alan Feduccia challenges the prevalent view of bird evolution – arguing his case historically, philosophically, and scientifically.  Right or wrong, this is a splendid read and simply should not be ignored."—Michael Ruse, author of Darwinism and its Discontents
(Michael Ruse 2011-07-01)

"Riddle of the Feathered Dragons is a balanced, detailed look at the origin of birds, including their evolutionary relationships to theropod dinosaurs. These important issues have suffered an epidemic of both popular and professional misconception and foul play for decades. Alan Feduccia’s insightful minority views should stimulate a healthy intellectual debate, and thus marginalize the hot-doggery."—David W. Steadman, author of Extinction and Biogeography of Tropical Pacific Birds
(David W. Steadman 2011-07-15)

"Lucid and entertaining, Alan Feduccia's Riddle of the Feathered Dragons brings together and summarizes the issues in contention. This book will be a potential anodyne to received dogma."—Storrs L. Olson, Sc.D., Curator Emeritus, Division of Birds, National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C. (Storrs L. Olson 2011-03-04)

"Riddle of the Feathered Dragons investigates whether birds evolved from advanced theropod dinosaurs or from an earlier, divergent archosaurian lineage.  Emphasis is placed on fossilized remains rather than procedures of computer driven phylogenetic analysis."—Robert Carroll, author of Vertebrate Paleontology and Evolution
(Robert Carroll 2011-07-05)

“Alan Feduccia has a long-standing disagreement with the 'birds from dinosaurs' theories. Although birds and dinosaurs may have come from a common ancestor and share some common features, Feduccia and his 300-page book, packed with research results, illustrations, and data, cast doubts on the majority opinion . . . . I am pulling for the underdog, the brave North Carolina scientist who is not afraid to challenge the current prevailing opinion.”--D. G. Martin, Raleigh Telegram
(D. G. Martin Raleigh Telegram)

"[Feduccia is] the perfect person to write a serious inquiry of the current reigning belief that the last dinosaurs evolved into present-day birds. . . . Highly recommended for paleontologists, scientists, and specialists in this field."—Gloria Maxwell, Library Journal
(Gloria Maxwell Library Journal)

"Those who have followed Feduccia's work over the years will recognize that this conclusion is a major shift in his views, and that his ability to deal with the new evidence in such an unbiased and creative manner is the mark of a uniquely sharp and innovative scientific mind. Whether one ultimately agrees with Feduccia or not, Feathered Dragons: Hidden Birds of China is a 'must read' for anyone interested in these questions and will prod its readers to rethink received wisdom on the subject of the evolution of birds."—The Auk
(The Auk)

About the Author

Alan Feduccia is S. K. Heninger Distinguished Professor Emeritus, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He is the author of the award-winning The Origin and Evolution of Birds. He lives in Chapel Hill, NC.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Emily A. Willoughby on October 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Interesting to see that as of writing this, this book has nothing but 1-star and 5-star reviews. I hope that my review can offer a slightly different perspective.

As others have pointed out, Feduccia's primary arguments rest on ridiculous assumptions, completely unsupported reinterpretations of data, and to be frank, basically devolve into petulant whining and vitriol in the latter parts of the book. This has been discussed in detail by reviewer Herman Diaz above, so I won't rehash his points unnecessarily here. Instead I'll focus on the aspects of the book that prevented me from giving it the lowest review score possible.

Early in the book, Feduccia makes some legitimate points that I think should be carefully and unemotionally considered by the scientific community. It absolutely is the case that journals have a bias for what kind of research they accept. Feathered dinosaur-related research is very mainstream right now, and the media and the general public just eat it up. Journals and institutions love the financial support and attention this kind of publication incurs, and so I do not doubt that they are more keen on publishing research that supports the dinosaur-bird connection.

And by the same process, I also don't think it's surprising that journals are less willing to publish research that may result in conclusions that go against the dinosaur-bird dogma: it's less talked about, and less considered, and less interesting to the public. I also think Feduccia is correct in his assessment that the true evolutionary origin of birds is still somewhat shrouded in mystery - in the details, at least. The evidence at this point in time firmly indicates that birds diverged from coelurosaurian dinosaurs, but when? Where? Ground-up or trees down or somewhere in between?
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33 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Herman Diaz on September 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I originally wasn't planning on reviewing Feduccia's "Riddle of the Feathered Dragons: Hidden Birds of China" (I.e. Riddle), mostly because, to quote Mallison, "the web is full of dissections of BANDit papers" (BAND = Birds Are Not Dinosaurs). Also, anyone who actually looks into the reviewers praising Riddle can see that they're either Feduccia's fellow BANDits (E.g. Storrs L. Olson) or non-experts who naively bought Feduccia's rhetoric (E.g. At least 1 of the 5-star Amazon Reviewers) &/or took Feduccia's side for non-scientific reasons (E.g. D. G. Martin). However, while reading the 5-star Amazon Reviews, I realized that 1) non-experts may not bother looking for reviews of Riddle when there are so many in 1 place, & 2) so many seemingly-good reviews in 1 place may mislead non-experts into thinking that it's a definitely-good book about bird origins & early evolution, an actual example of which is Chiappe's "Glorified Dinosaurs: The Origin and Early Evolution of Birds".

Going into Riddle, I was expecting more of the same old nonsense given Feduccia's more recent papers.* Surprise, surprise, that's exactly what I got. Thanks to Mallison's "BANDitry, creationism, and global warming denial", I was better able to keep track of the underhanded BANDit tactics used. In Appendix 1 alone, Feduccia concentrates on individual data points/refuses to look at "big pictures" (See what he says about Erickson et al. 2009 & Pontzer et al. 2009), uses strawman arguments ("One might also consider the alternative to one of their primary questions based on a traditional theropod ancestry of birds...
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11 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Jack Pettigrew on June 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have always been interested in the dinosaur-bird controversy, even though I have not worked on any of the relevant areas of paleontology. My passion for the subject comes from many sources, including the following:- 1. An early champion of the dino-bird connection, Thomas Henry Huxley was a personal hero who became famous for his eloquent discourse on the subject, who married an Australian wife, and who probably shared my bipolar diathesis; 2. I once caught a flight to Sydney to see the famous feathered dinosaurs on display at the Australian Museum, which I discovered were not unequivocally feathered at all!; 3. I acquired an intimate knowledge of the sensory physiology of birds with which I share an empathy that has encouraged in me a strong motivation to learn more about their origins; 4. I have painful personal experience with the unsavoury tactics of antagonists in another phylogenetic controversy, the flying primate debate, which shares overlapping polemicists and tricksters with the avian origins debate, both of which debates, inter alia, concern the evolution of vertebrate flight.

There are other reasons that I could recount too, but the point is to introduce Alan Feduccia's new book on the topic, "Riddle of the Feathered Dragons", which I was impatient to read. Feduccia's first book on this subject, "Origin and Evolution of Birds" was reviewed simultaneously in both of the top scientific journals, Nature and Science, in 1981 when it stretched credulity, on reading these two contrasting reviews, that they concerned the same book! The Nature review by Mark Norell and Luis Chiappe was a savage attack from two dyed-in-the wool, hot-headed antagonists, while the Science review by Kenneth Campbell was a balanced account whose major criticism concerned the quality of the illustrations.
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