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Bird evolution books
I've been reviewing the three latest books on bird evolution for New
Scientist, and found them quite different in approach.
I like Dingus and Rowe's The Mistaken Extinction for its clear descriptions
and explanations, and for its broad scope in carrying the story all the way
to the present. Its lack of anatomical detail was fine for me, but I
suspect wouldn't satisfy those who know much more about anatomy.
Pat Shipman does an outstanding job on Archaeopteryx in Taking Wing, but I
wish she had looked beyond Archaeopteryx to the later evolution of birds.
(Knowing the realities of publishing, I suspect that would have to be
Sankar Chatterjee's The Rise of Birds puts predictable emphasis on
Protoavis, but otherwise gives a nice view of avian evolution though to the
KT boundary, with a reasonable amount of anatomy.
What's really striking in looking through all three books is how much has
changed since they were written. WE're still arguing how birds are related
to dinosaurs, but now we've got Sinosauropteryx, Protarchaeopteryx,
Confuciusornis, Rahonavis, and more that fall somewhere in the range of
avian evolution, plus more dinosaurs with uncertain avian affinities. All
these books are going to have to be rewritten in a few years, but for now
they're all going on my bookshelf.
Jeff Hecht Boston Correspondent New Scientist magazine
525 Auburn St., Auburndale, MA 02166 USA
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