A Review of “The Great Dinosaur Discoveries” by Darren Naish
Everything Dinosaur team members were asked the other day to provide a list of what were, in their opinion, the best dinosaur books written since the turn of the century. One of the books listed was “The Great Dinosaur Discoveries”, written by Darren Naish and published back in 2009. This is a book about dinosaurs, but it takes the reader on a very different journey when compared to the majority of books that discuss the rise and fall of the Dinosauria, and what a fascinating journey it is too.
The Front Cover of “The Great Dinosaur Discoveries”
A lot of dinosaur books catalogue the dinosaurs in terms of their geology, starting with the very first dinosaurs and ending with the Cretaceous mass extinction, that ended the “Age of Reptiles”, leaving us with only the avian dinosaurs to study as living animals today. Other books on this topic take the phylogenetic approach, that is, they map out the dinosaur family tree. Chapters are dedicated to the different sorts of dinosaur that once roamed the Earth, pages detail the evolution of the Sauropodomorpha, whilst other parts focus on theropods, the armoured dinosaurs (Thyreophora) and the ornithopods.
Darren’s book takes us in a different direction. After an introductory preamble that deals with dinosaur definitions and places the Dinosauria within the geological time scale, each subsequent chapter is organised chronologically in terms of how our knowledge and understanding of these magnificent Archosaurs has changed. It is not just a book about dinosaurs, it documents the history of dinosaur research and this is a most informative and refreshing approach.
Yes, we have to admit, this is not the first book to be produced to have done this, but what elevates “The Great Dinosaur Discoveries” above its peers are the beautiful fossil photographs, the stunning illustrations, provided by the likes of Julius Csotonyi, Luis Rey and Todd Marshall and the informative and well crafted writing of the author.
An Acrocanthosaurus Studies a Group of Sauroposeidon
Picture credit: Julius Csotonyi
The picture above shows one of the many illustrations by renowned palaeo-artist Julius Csotonyi included in this book. Darren combines stunning artwork with the sort of well-informed writing one would expect from such a distinguished vertebrate palaeontologist and science writer.
In our correspondence with the author, Darren admits that due to time and budgetary constraints some elements that he desperately wanted to include were omitted. He would have loved to have added a section dedicated to the “Lost Dinosaurs of Egypt”, detailing the contribution made to the science of palaeontology by Ernst Freiherr Stromer von Reichenbach and Richard Markgraf, or to have explained in greater detail the contribution made by Louis Dollo when it comes to unravelling the family tree of the iguanodontids. Alas, this was not to be. However, “The Great Dinosaur Discoveries” is not diminished as a result of these omissions and although the science of vertebrate palaeontology has moved on since this book was first published (2009), it remains a thoroughly enjoyable read and serves as testament to the dedicated research that has done so much to help us understand the enigmatic Dinosauria.
Ouranosaurus Makes an Appearance – Mounted Skeleton
Aimed at the general reader with plenty to interest those with an academic background, this book is highly recommended. Find it and add it to your bookshelf, you won’t be disappointed.
Naish, D. 2009. The Great Dinosaur Discoveries. University of California Press (Berkeley and Los Angeles), pp. 192. Hardback. ISBN 978-0-520-25975-1.