- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Dutton Adult (March 19, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0525951040
- ISBN-13: 978-0525951049
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 41 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,124,100 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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How to Build a Dinosaur: Extinction Doesn't Have to Be Forever
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About the Author
Jack Horner is regents professor of paleontology at Montana State University, curator of paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies, and probably the best-known paleontologist in the world. The recipient of a MacArthur ÂgeniusÂ award, he is the author of several books on dinosaurs, has helped create several documentaries, and does field work in Montana and Mongolia.
James Gorman is deputy science editor of The New York Times and editor of its Science Times section. He is the author of several books, including two previous books with Horner.
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This would be a mistake, since in the latter half of the book the authors get down to explaining what kind of techniques or knowledge may be necessary to produce a creature that for all practical purposes, i.e. in terms of its skeletal structure and general appearance would be a living dinosaur. Studying these pages is fascinating, and indeed gives one more reason for believing that if the authors or other biologists succeed in bringing this about, then this would be the most awesome feat in scientific and technological history.
What is most important about the author's proposals is that they are not dependent on having the genomes of long extinct dinosaurs. Instead, they seek to adjust the timing of the growth patterns that led to the evolution of birds from nonavian dinosaurs. This is to be done via the embryo of a domestic chicken. But changing the timing of metabolic and growth processes, this timing being regulated by genes, must respect what actually occurred in the evolutionary development of the bird from the dinosaur. Otherwise what results is a kind of "freak" that may be of interest in general but will not represent a genuine dinosaur of the kind that roamed the earth millions of years ago.
A small amount of space is devoted in the book to the ethics and dangers of this kind of effort. These discussions are important but did not convince this reviewer that the author's proposals should not be carried out. On the contrary, they should be done immediately without any mental reservation. Right now. Today.
Hopefully, this book will inspire more students to go into biology. Turning a chicken into a dinosaur might be just the right hook to stimulate interest in these exciting new developments in evo-devo.
My one suggestion for the book is that because it covers so many fields, Horner ends up summarizing or quoting the works of others. He tells their stories effectively. But at some point, I wonder if perhaps it would have been better to produce a joint book, with articles from several of the contributors in the field. However, it is also useful to have one voice to guide the reader through the science. Since Horner is not a native to molecular sciences (his expertise is traditional paleontology), he is perhaps better suited to explaining the complexities of genetics to lay readers.
P.S. - Be sure to check out the Discovery Channel's documentary (Dinosaurs: Return To Life?) on this topic. It is a nice complement to the book.