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How to Build a Dinosaur: Extinction Doesn't Have to Be Forever Hardcover – 1698
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"The authors cover highly technical scientific fields in a manner accessible to lay audiences, who will be captivated by Audie Award nominee Patrick Lawlor's Mr. Wizard-like zeal." ---Library Journal Audio Review --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
James Gorman is deputy science editor of the New York Times and editor of its Science Times section. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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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.
The last two chapters are not at the same level. Horner is interested in promoting a grand experiment: modifying embryonic chicken development so that you create a creature with the features belonging to the chicken's non-avian dinosaur ancestors. There is a lot of developmental biology which must first be mastered to accomplish this. However, at the level of detail that Horner writes, there is just not enough to say to adequately fill the 50 pages devoted to the subject. As explained I couldn't fully appreciate the concept of symmetry, and Horner did not want to go into such topics as just how staining works in tracing embryo development.
Horner himself is a delightful man, careful to give credit where it is due, willing to tell some anecdotes which do not paint him in the best light, and willing to spend $40,000 of his own money to sponsor research he believes in! However, sometimes he seems to be implicitly assuming that it is only the control genes which mutate, so that just by modifying their signals you can creat a viable creature with dinosaur characteristics.