This volume represents the fourth in the "pedia" series that I have reviewed for Princeton University Press. I am quite taken with the concept, so I was very pleased to receive Dinopedia.
I suspect that like many, I have an unremitting fascination with dinosaurs, yet inadequate knowledge about them. This compendium of information is really quite wonderful, presenting facts in a very readable way, while not neglecting the influence of dinosaurs on popular culture.
Darren Naish has done a masterful job in avoiding arcane terminology as much as possible, but in a work such as this, it is impossible to ignore it completely. I found it fun to get my tongue around such seemingly unpronounceable words as Opsithocoelicaudia and Pycnonemosaurus, by breaking them down syllable by syllable. It is amazing how quickly they then roll off the tongue, and a brief foray into their etymology reveals much about their meaning. This was, in effect, a secondary exploration, a bit of an intellectual adventure, from which I derived great pleasure.
As a lifelong birder, the question of whether birds are descended from dinosaurs, and if so which ones, has been part of avian discourse for as long as I can remember. Having read the opposing views held by Sankar Chatterjee (The Rise of Birds) and Alan Feduccia (The Origin and Evolution of Birds) in their respective works, and being susceptible to accepting either side, I was glad to have Naish set me straight once and for all - kick Feduccia and his heretics (adherents to the BAND (Birds are not dinosaurs) movement) to the ashbin of ornithological history! I was also reminded of David Quammen's ironic and amusing essay, Local Bird Makes Good. The heavyweights have indeed written on this topic!
Dinosaurs have never left us; not all were destroyed in the KT extinction. Birds ARE dinosaurs. When the next Nightingale or Wood Thrush enraptures you with its melody, remember that you are listening to a living, breathing, and yes, flying dinosaur.
From A to Z, from Abelsaurids to the Zigong Dinosaur Museum, and everything in between, dinosaurs are extolled and explained in all their glorious diversity. Controversies are explored; successes are lauded, personalities probed and the fossil record dissected. The lively, often witty text, is accompanied by drawings from the author's own hand.
I can say without reservation, it is a very satisfying little book from start to finish.
Dinopedia - Princeton University Press
Author: Darren Naish
US$16.95 - £9.99 - ISBN: 9780691212029
216 pages - 4.5 x 7 inches (11,25 x 17.5 cm) - 50 b/w illustrations
Published: USA 30 November 2021
UK 5 October 2021