Every six-year-old can identify Triceratops; here's a book that shows just how much more there is to know about the extinct...



Every six-year-old can identify Triceratops; here's a book that shows just how much more there is to know about the extinct three-horned monster and its relatives. Dodson (Veterinary Anatomy and Geology/Univ. of Pennsylvania) begins with a broad overview of the homed dinosaurs. The suborder Ceratopsia includes four families, comprising 22 genera and numerous species, all dating from the Cretaceous Era. Large herbivores, they were clearly highly successful animals, as their fossils are among the most common of their time. (One early collector claimed to have seen at least 500 specimens; in comparison, nearly half of all dinosaur species are known from a single specimen.) In the second chapter, Dodson offers a detailed description of the bones of Chasmosaurus, a member of the same family as Triceratops. Having established the essential terminology, he proceeds to examine the various genera and species of ceratopsians based on their anatomy (with the aid of detailed illustrations by Robert F. Walters). Scientists of the last century often decided that any variant from the ""type specimen"" deserved the status of a new species; today most scientists ascribe such differences to natural variations, stages of growth, or sexual dimorphism. Thus, instead of the 13 species of Triceratops described in the literature, Dodson believes there was a single dominant species, T. horridus. While much of his material is highly technical, he brings considerable wit and charm to his argument and gives an excellent sense of the practice of paleontology, as well as of the personalities involved in it. Two final chapters discuss the classification of the various ceratopsian genera in light of the modern disciplines of cladistics and RFTRA (a sophisticated measuring technique), and such questions as their probable diet, mobility, and the cause of their extinction. Dodson has given the next generation of paleontologists a fine starting point from which to begin their own investigations.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0691059004

Page Count: 392

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1996