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The continued publication of trash



I just received a notice this morning of a new book published by Springer:

Cloudsley-thompson, J. L. 2005. Ecology and Behaviour of Mesozoic Reptiles.

Blurb: "Our knowledge of extinct animals depends almost entirely upon the
study of fossils. This richly illustrated book clothes the skeletons of
dinosaurs and other Mesozoic reptiles with flesh, and shows how these
fascinating animals evolved and probably lived. Expert author John L.
Cloudsley-Thompson provides an interesting synthesis of current views on
their ecology, physiology and behaviour, and outlines the various hypotheses
that have been proposed to explain their extinction. Numerous beautiful
drawings of the animals and their environment illustrate this exciting
monograph."

I took a look at the sample pages available from
http://www.springeronline.com/sgw/cda/frontpage/0,0,5-0-22-35184769-0,0.html
and found myself in something of a strange time-warp. They're the first few
pages of the chapter on dinosaurs, and the illustrations in particular
(which can most charitably be described as grainy and wobbly) could have
come right out of a basic children's book on dinosaurs from the sixties. The
text, as well as being decidedly simplistic, contains a number of rather
laughable errors. Here are some highlights:

"A sister group [of dinosaurs] is represented by the ornithosuchid or basal
dinosauromorph _Marasuchus_"

"Although _Eoraptor_ from Argentina and the Herrerasauridae appear to have
been true theropods, there is some disagreement as to whether they evolved
before or after the split between Ornithischia and Saurischia" [this one in
particular made me chuckle, if not giggle]

"The prosauropods such as _Plateosaurus_ and _Massospondylus_ of the Late
Triassic were at one time believed to be ancestral to the true sauropods of
the Jurassic. After all, they had only to increase in size and return to a
fully quadrupedal form of locomotion! They are now, however, regarded as a
side-branch of the sauropodomorphs that died out at the end of the Triassic
period" [I've just included this as an example of the general writing style
- the prose is quite, quite ghastly, and I say that as a writer of some
pretty terrible prose myself. If any one can explain what that exclamation
point at the end of the second sentence is doing there, I'd be glad to
know...]

"weapons of attack are also employed by carnivores in defensive situations
when they are attacked by enemies larger or more formidable than themselves.
They may also be used in agonistic combat. Again, weapons whose primary
function is agonistic may well be used in defense against predators, and so
on." [my G-d, who edited this?]

As for the figures - _Teratosaurus_ is used as one of the exemplars of a
carnivorous dinosaur [especially funny as the paragraph on prosauropods a
couple of pages earlier included a section on the re-identification of the
'carnivorous prosaropods']. _Iguanodon_ has an entirely upright posture. And
_Polacanthus_ resembles nothing so much as a particularly bad-tempered
sheep. None of the illustrations look to have been based on the actual
remains of the animals they supposedly represent.
    And to top it all off, Springer are asking 150 euros from anyone who
might actually consider buying this rubbish.

    Have a good one,

        Christopher Taylor