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Re: dinosaur textbook

>>While we are on the topic of critiquing different reading material out there,
>>how about Spencer Lucas' textbook on Dinosaurs.

>Personally I would highly recommend the book. I find that for me it is
>well-organized and laid out. It covers most aspects fairly without siding
>with one or another side in controversial issues. The illustrations are
>helpful and overall it is now top on my list when it comes to books I
>recommend for someone wanting to learn about dinosaur paleo.
>At this time I am not able to make any criticisms about this fine
>introductory text. Others may of course disagree.

And indeed do disagree :-)

I was hoping to stay of of this a bit, since I have an "official" review of
this textbook (in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology) which should be
coming out soon.  Nevertheless, I can briefly describe my conclusions:

The book IS well-structured, and written at an introductory level.  It does
present (in most cases) both sides of the arguments.   It is fairly

What it is not, is accurate.  This textbook was in serious need of critical
fact checking.  It is loaded with incorrect (Ornithomimosauridae, instead
of Ornithomimosauria or Ornithomimidae) or contraversial (Rioarribasaurus
for Coelophysis, Ceratopsinae and Pachyrhinosaurinae for Chasmosaurinae and
Centrosaurinae) names.  The maps are inconsistant and inaccurate: on the
first major map in the book, alledgedly showing the major dinosaur sites of
the world, there is not a single dot on continental Eurasia!  The dinosaur
bones and skeletons are often inaccurate, traced by an artist apparently
unfamiliar with dinosaur anatomy.  In one case, the Smithsonian
Ceratosaurus mount is traced over, the horn erased, and passed off as
Allosaurus (for those who don't know, Ceratosaurus and Allosaurus are VERY
differnt theropods).  It is suggested that the larger of the two morphs of
theropod species is the male, whereas almost everyone agrees that it is
probably the female (incidentally, Lucas works mostly on mammals, so that
might explain this mistake).

It's not like all of us don't make mistakes.  In fact, I just got a
manuscript back where I have misplaced some site localities, just as in
Dinosaurs: The Textbook.  However, I am going to listen to the reviewers
advice and correct these.  It appears either that this book was not
critically reviewed, or that revisions were not made after reviews got
back.  The art is very inconsistant, and its a shame that the book company
did not get one of the many excellent dino artists who are out there for
this project.

So, my recommendations: either buy this book, but take the specifics with a
grain of salt, or don't buy it, and instead wait for the other couple of
dino textbooks that are coming out.  In point of fact, I do use this book
as the primary text for my dinosaur course at U Maryland, but I am very
familiar with the original material.  For those who do not have as much
exposure to the original sources, this book might propogate some

That's my advice.  You can take it, or leave it.

BTW, one final note:  The "deinos" in Dinosauria Owen 1842 was NOT
originally intended as "terrible" (i.e., scary), but is specifically listed
as "fearfully great" (i.e., scary because it's big).

Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.                            tholtz@geochange.er.usgs.gov
Vertebrate Paleontologist in Exile              Phone:          703-648-5280
U.S. Geological Survey                          FAX:            703-648-5420
Branch of Paleontology & Stratigraphy
MS 970 National Center
Reston, VA  22092