THE LITTLE DINOSAURS OF GHOST RANCH by Edwin H. Colbert

THE LITTLE DINOSAURS OF GHOST RANCH

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A strange report, neither scholarly paper nor accessible popular science, about a single species of dinosaur found in peculiar abundance in northern New Mexico. In 1947, paleontologist Colbert (The Year of the Dinosaur, 1977) and a team of researchers arrived in the Southwest to hunt fossils under the auspices of New York City's American Museum of Natural History. Headed for the Petrified Forest, they stopped by chance at Ghost Ranch, a supposedly haunted spread that sat atop Mesozoicera geological formations. There they discovered one of the world's richest dinosaur quarries and, scrapping their plans to move on, spent the next two summers extracting blocks of sandstone full of hundreds of specimens of Coelophysis bauri, a small ancestor of Tyrannosaurus rex. Years of work at leading research museums across the country resulted in a detailed portrait of this early dinosaur. Colbert describes the serendipity of paleontological discovery, the backbreaking labor of bringing fossils to light, and the creative artistry of interpreting the fragile finds. He then moves into a dizzyingly comprehensive discussion of the species in question, from the history of Coelophysis discoveries in the Southwest to the mystery of Ghost Ranch's mass grave, then on to a minutely detailed study of the creature's anatomy, behavior, and prehistoric habitat. For the lay reader, this may be too much information. Colbert, a highly respected leader in his field, tells the story of his discovery like a pedantic professor, prefacing conclusions with remarks, like ""If this appears less than exciting,"" that prove regrettably apt. As Colbert himself remarks, ""We fossil hunters are a small but fortunate group of people."" He has written his book more for that select few than for the general public.

Pub Date: June 8th, 1995
Page count: 237pp
Publisher: Columbia Univ.