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Book Review: 101 Questions about Dinosaurs



Currie, Philip J. and Eva B. Koppelhus. _101 questions about dinosaurs_.
Mineola, NY: Dover, 1996. Illustrations by Jan Sovak. ISBN 0-486-29172-3. 67
pages. Price: $2.00
    This slim (5 1/4 x 8 1/2) volume is a very well-done FAQ on dinosaurs.
The questions are divided into 10 topics: 1) General and History; 2)
Dinosaur Fossils; 3) Interesting Facts; 4) Dinosaurian Biology; 5)
Feeding; 6) Dinosaur Senses; 7) The World Dinosaurs Lived In; 8) Dinosaur
Behavior; 9) Dinosaur Extinction; 10) The Study of Dinosaurs.
    As one would expect, question #1 is "What is a dinosaur?" The answer
is concise and to the point, focusing on distinguishing skeletal
features. Cladists will appreciate the first sentence of the second
paragraph: "With the exception of birds, all known dinosaurs lived
during the Mesozoic Era."
    The "Interesting Facts" chapter provides information on the biggest
dinosaur (comparing longest, tallest, heaviest with mention of
Seismosaurus, Ultrasauros, and Argentinosaurus) and the biggest meat
eater (with mention of Tyrannosaurus rex--who gets the nod--compared to
Acrocanthosaurus, Giganotosaurus, and Carcharodontosaurus. A
typographical error in the spelling of the latter theropod slipped by
the proofreaders).
    Somewhere in this book, just about any question that would be asked
by lay dinosaur enthusiasts is addressed, including "How long would a
dinosaur live?", "How long does it take for a bone to become fossilized?"
and "If I wanted to work on dinosaurs, how long would I have to stay in
school?"
    There are about 25 black and white line drawings by Jan Sovak in the
center of the book(let), and a Sovak painting on the cover of
Euoplocephalus defending itself against an Albertosaurus. The painting
and drawings seem to have come from Currie and Spinar's 1994 book, _The
Great Dinosaurs: A Story of the Giants' Evolution_, from Longmeadow Press.
    I was about to say that I wish there had been more illustrations to
accompany the text, but probably that would have detracted from the real
strength of the book--the carefully selected questions and the
well-thought out answers, expressed in terms that just about anyone can
understand but still providing just enough information to make a
satisfying answer.
    There is regrettably no foreword to explain how the authors selected
their questions, and nothing (as far as I could tell at first glance)
identifying the credentials of Currie and Koppelhus beyond a back cover
blurb referring to them as a "...Canadian paleontologist and his Danish
colleague..."
    The intended audience is obviously the lay public, and teachers will
find this a valuable reference. Grade school teachers will appreciate the
question "Did dinosaurs have baby teeth like humans, cats and dogs?"

----- Amado Narvaez
      Media Specialist
      Montgomery Knolls ES
      807 Daleview Drive
      Silver Spring, MD 20901