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A Field Guide to Mesozoic Birds and Other Winged Dinosaurs Paperback – December 8, 2012
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover," illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Learn more
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About the Author
Matthew P. Martyniuk is an illustrator and science educator specializing in Mesozoic birds and avian evolution. He has been drawing prehistoric flora and fauna since he first held a pencil, and became fascinated with the dinosaur/bird transition after discovering a copy of Gregory S. Paul’s Predatory Dinosaurs of the World at his local library. His illustrations and diagrams have appeared in a variety of books, news articles, and television programs from Discovery, the Smithsonian, and the BBC, and he publishes the paleontological blog DinoGoss. He is a founding member of “Wikiproject Dinosaurs”, an initiative to generate and curate scientifically precise content for the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Additional art and information can be found at his Web site, www.henteeth.com.
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Interestingly, the author of the book uses the term "bird" in a wider sense than it is generally used, including all avialans, deinonychosaurs and oviraptorosaurs (or caenagnathiformes, as they are referred to as in the book) as birds. This makes sense, as the line between which dinosaurs are birds and which are not is far more blurred than many would think.
Some of the classification terms the author uses are a bit odd. He refers to tyrannosaurids as deinodontids, therizinosaurs as segnosaurs, oviraptorosaurs as caenagnathiformes, and dromaeosaurids as ornithodesmids. There does seem to be a justification to all this though, as the appendixes on clade names and definitions shows when the names were coined and shows that the unusual sounding names the author uses are actually older than the more familiar names and thus take precedence according to the rules of nomenclature.
The book explains the basics of bird evolution and physical features (including an interesting discussion on figuring out what feather colours would and would not have been plausible in prehistoric birds and other dinosaurs) and goes on provide an illustrated guide to numerous different Mesozoic birds, in a similar style to many field guides one could find on present day animals. The information presented on each species is brief but still informative, and the illustrations are well done and show convincing images of what the various birds may have looked like in life.
I was not aware of just how diverse Mesozoic birds were before reading this book. It was quite an interesting thing to learn.
There are a few disagreements I have with the book. I, for example, do not really agree with the classification of scansoriopterygids as basal avialans, but agree more with other classifications that place them as a far more primitive group of maniraptoran. Also, in the book it is claimed that the only birds that the only birds that definitely flew were ornithothoracans, but I have seen a number of sources of up to date info giving persuasive arguments for flight in basal avialans, among deinonychosaurs, and possibly even in the ancestors of oviraptorosaurs and in a few other feathery dinosaurs.
These disagreements aside, the book was nevertheless quite interesting and informative. I am glad to have purchased it and would recommend it to anyone interested in birds or in dinosaurs in general.
The Kindle edition of this book is unfortunately badly edited. While the text and the illustrations are good, the latter have no captions, so a reader browsing the e-book can't know which birds are being illustrated! For a field guide, this is a major shortcoming. As for the text, it includes an extensive introduction (mostly about bird evolution) and shorter descriptions of various Mesozoic bird species written in field guide style. To be honest, it's a quite boring and slightly technical work, unless you have a nerdy interest in…guess what…Mesozoic birds (and perhaps cladistics).
Due to the editing, I will only give the Kindle version three stars. Still, if you *do* have a nerdy interest in basal (or based) avialans & co, investing in the physical book edition might be a good idea…
The text is of course technical, but is still easy for a layperson to read. It is fascinating without any of the annoying affectation and straining for effect that popular science writing sometimes has. A great read for anyone interested in dinosaurs, birds, or just evolutionary biology!