Thursday, April 23, 2009

Predatory Dinosaurs of the World

By Greg Paul, 1988. I got a copy of this (via Interlibrary Loan) recently because I had fond memories of reading it in the early and mid-90s and being blown away by the descriptions of dinosaurs that it offered, to say nothing of Greg Paul's revolutionary dinosaur art. Sadly, only in B&W in this book.

I'm glad that I didn't end up buying it, though, as I almost did. Sadly, the book has not aged well and I was unhappy with the experience of reliving it. Many of the reasons that is true were not unexpected for me, but it was still a minor sad experience nonetheless.

The main reason for it, of course, is everything that has happened to dinosaur science since Paul wrote this. It's so obsolete that it's almost painful at times, especially in the catalog of dinosaurs half of the book, which is the real meat of the book anyway. The book predates the cladistic revolution that overtook dinosaurology in the 90s, and made Paul's classification scheme almost laughably out of date (which isn't really fair, because when he proposed it, it wasn't a bad scheme at all.) It predates a lot of the really big, important and significant discoveries of the 90s and 00s, including the entire line of carcharodontosaurs, abelisaurs, and therizinosaurs, it predates the spectacular feathered Yixian finds, the early tyrannosaurs, and more. He's a notorious lumper (at least in this book) eliminating genera right and left, sometimes quite strangely (he dumped Yangchuanosaurus, a derived carnosaur, into Metriacanthosaurus, a basal tetanurine, for instance.)

Although the 90s weren't exactly my "youth" it was near the begining of my adult, revolutionized dinosaur love, following in the wake of Bakker's Dinosaur Heresies and Crichton's (and Spielberg's, for that matter) Jurassic Park. Dinosaurs were sexy and new in a way that they hadn't been even when I was a kid, and although I never really fell out of love with them, it was so much easier to love them at the time Predatory Dinosaurs of the World came out and slapped me upside the head. Sadly, it now feels like a youthful, childish crush compared to what I know since I first read it. I turned the book back in, only partially re-read (I did flip through it and look at all the pictures again, at least) and probably won't bother with it again.

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