DINOSAUR HUNTERS by David A.E. Spalding


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 Solid and engrossing history of collecting the Big Ones (and their little brethren), by a science writer and museum advisor. The tale hatches in the 17th century, when Robert Plot, antiquarian and naturalist, published the first description of dinosaur bones and the first crackpot theory of their origins (that God implanted fossils as ornaments, subterranean flowers of sorts). As natural history flourished in England and on the Continent, more remains came to light, most intriguingly those of Archaeopteryx, the winged reptile (leading T.H. Huxley, 130 years ago, to propose the still-hot theory that dinosaurs and birds are closely related). Some hilarious misrepresentations ensued at first: Dinosaurs were depicted as fat, logy, lumbering beasts; on museum reconstructions, Iguanodon's claw migrated from nose to foot before winding up where it belongs, on the hand. In admirable detail, Spalding covers the great unearthing on every continent, as exact taxonomic and anatomic knowledge replaced wide-eyed fancy. Properly, he concentrates on North America, burial chamber of T. rex, Triceratops, and other popular favorites. Memorable characters turn up: Barnum Brown, the Einstein of fossil hunters; Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope, who battled one another for bones throughout several decades across the American West. Readers familiar with these legendary figures will welcome Spalding's rich presentation of paleontology on less frequented shores, including Mongolia and China. The quest goes on: new dinos still crop up, most recently the biggest of them all, Seismosaurus, 140 feet and 100 tons of thunder. Another fine entry in the jammed dino-book field (which now surely qualifies as a full-blown craze: what hath Spielberg wrought?). (Thirty photos and maps--not seen)

Pub Date: Sept. 17th, 1993
ISBN: 1-55958-338-X
Page count: 336pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1993


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