[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index][Subject Index][Author Index]

Re: fossil bird books

OK, Keep in mind that the researchers all have different ideas... Which have been debated elsewhere, I wont bother here. (Some background included here for those readers uninitiated to the topic, if there are any still! I've not tried to take sides or ridicule authors for their ideas, a practice that should be frowned upon in science, but given an unbiased assessment of where these authors and their works sit in the overall scheme of things and point out controversial ideas, where they may differ in interpretations, and how their work has been received by others)

So, the books listed here are both those that treat the origins of birds, and those with an emphasis on bird fossils in general and not just the earliest birds. I think a quick search on any big online book store should find these book titles (often with reviews):

__For general fossil birds there's:

1) Feduccia, A., 1999 - 'The origin and evolution of birds'
Probably one of the most comprehensive in number of fossil bird species covered, it includes lots of the more 'modern' birds often ignored in other publications as they have little bearing on the origin birds, but do map out the diversity of this group through time. Best to regard this as being focused on fossil birds, and 'bird origins' only forming a part of the book. I think I've read this is how the author prefers to view it. HOWEVER, the author is controversial (see other entries under on this email list) in that he upholds the view that birds did not arise from dinosaurs, but some other earlier archosaur, and suggests it is would have been arboreal quadruped.

__Where the 'bird's can't be dinosaur descendants idea came from':

2) Heilmann, G., 1927 - 'The origin of birds'
The view currently held by Feduccia once dominated the field for the best part of the 20th century ever since Heilmann's book (which you have) which stated he couldn't find enough 'primordial' bird features (eg the furcula or 'wishbone') in the small theropod speciemens available to him at the time ( eg _Compsognathus_).
I really like Heilmann's book, and any one studying the subject should have a copy. He did a great job with the material available, so considering that I don't think many can argue with his findings at that time in history. (Also he was a brilliant artist, I consider some of those in the book some of my favourites, and though sketchy, give the viewer a better idea of what the anatomy looked like in 3D. Eg. the pelvic girdle images on p21 were the first to really help me figure out what they looked like when I was young, as the side views of pelvic girdles often presented in dinosaur books don't really help, and often not well explained). Then in 1969, John Ostrom published his paper on the small theropod _Deinonychus_, which was a radically different predatory dinosaur that shook up the old view that dinosaurs were big, slow, lumbering, stupid, swamp dwelling failures (to put it in its most extreme expression, which lead to the use of the word 'dinosaur' for things big, old out, moded and now obsolete). This discovery fired up the 'dinos are warm blooded' idea, championed by Ostrom and his student Bob Bakker, plus Ostrom noticed lots of similarities between it's anatomy and birds that he suggested are not due to convergences but reflect a real relationship between birds and dinosaurs. This was a return to an idea held by Huxley in the mid-late 1800's after the discovery of _Compsognathus_ and _Archaeopteryx, shortly following Darwin's crazy new idea of 'evolution'. More discoveries of similar small predatory dinosaurs followed (some becoming famous and well known as 'raptors' in Jurassic Park), and features Heilmann couldn't find have been found in more recent and complete specimens. So through the 70's, 80's, 90's the idea that dinosaurs weren't simply slow and cold blooded, and appeared to be the best candidates as bird ancestors shifted to become the prevailing view, especially among the dinosaur specialists. Those that have not converted to this view tend to be bird specialists that study fossils, developmental biology, or detailed bird anatomy (skin, respiratory system etc.). There's a classic list of points that they have proposed as problems for the dino-bird ancestry, which have been debated or countered by those favouring dinosaur ancestry, but I'll not go into that here - there's plenty of other places that you can chase these up!

The debate became more heated after the mid 1980's (see book 10 below), and by the 1990's had reach full steam, opponents saying some terrible things about the each other and their work both in scientific and non scientific publications. It was during the 1990's that the chinese 'dinobird fossils' where discovered which added heat to the debate.

__ Books for general readership on the origin of birds from the late 90's:

3) Dingus and Rowe, 1998 - 'The mistaken extinction'
Mainstream 'birds are dinosaurs' descendants type book, covering most of the arguments, history and findings. The central statement of the book is that birds descended from dinosaurs, therefore must be considered as a sub group of dinosaurs, therefore dinosaurs didn't die out and are still more numerous than mammals. First place I saw it written so clearly.
Includes the first feathered bird fossils from China, but was too early for include the feathered or fuzzy dino-birds.

4) Shipman, P., 1998 - 'Taking wing'
A lot of the background above is covered in this book, and Pat Shipman has done a great job in covering the topic. She is an Anthropologist and a 'scientific journalist', so she has done some great research on the history of the subject and summarising the issues. It can be argued that she is not a specialist, and I did find a few points weren't given equal time or 'weight' from memory. It came out just in time to include the first Chinese 'dino-bird' fossils, but was too early for specimens such as _Caudipteryx_ and other feathered or fuzzy fossils that have become key to the issue since, so any conclusions made from reading this book would leave out some important newer findings. Incidentally, I have the hardback with a specimen of _Rahmphorhynchus_ on the cover, but the sleeve claims it to be _Archaeopteryx_!

__ Moving on... a point that has been made in the past is that the dino-bird ancestry debate is/was never purely two sided. There are lots of variations on these ideas, and this is reflected in the books put out by different authors.

5) Chatterjee, S., 1997 - 'The rise of the birds'
The controversy involved here is the inclusion of _Protoavis_ as a central player in the book. Many researchers question the interpretation of the fossil. His take on the origin of flight and birds has some points that differ from others, so worth a look.

6) Paul, D., 2002, Dinosaurs of the Air
Greg Paul, researcher that was one of the few brave enough to illustrate feathered dinosaurs prior to the Chinese fossils. This demonstrates his conviction in his own ideas and his own unique interpretations of the evidence. His reconstructions of dinosaurs are now influencing most others that followed. This is a big book, lots of information, great illustrations. Can't find my copy to check this and haven't looked at it for a while, but think he suggests a lot of the theropods descended from early birds and could be secondarily flightless... correct me if I'm wrong there!

__ More technical edited books have come out recently which treat this topic

7) Currie, Kopplehaus, Shugar and Wright (eds), 2004 - 'Feathered dragons'
More technical, included papers from various authors on latest findings of fossil birds and theropods. Centerpiece to the book is _Bambiraptor_ tiny theropod only recently found. Differing views are expressed by the authors.

8) Chiappe and Witmer (eds), 2002 - 'Mesozoic Birds'
A must have. Covers most of what is known about topic in technical papers. If this book doesn't cover it, you should find references in the bibliography to those works that do! The authors of the different chapters do have differing opinions on some matters, and Witmer flags these in the intro.

__ Publications based on conference proceedings, they include key papers on topic (very technical):

9) Olson, S. (ed), 1976 - 'Collected papers in avian paleontology honouring the 90th birthday of Alexander Wetmore',
Smithsonian Contributions to Paleobiology, 27

10) Hecht, Ostrom, Viohl and Wellnhoffer, 1985 - 'The beginnings of birds' (Proceedings of the international _Arachaeopteryx_ conference, Eichstatt 1984),
Eichstätt Freunde des Jura-Museums Eichstätt: 233-249.
Probably the point where the whole bird-dino ancestry debate got really fired up and the pendulum swung towards the 'pro dino ancestry' side. Remember at this point mostly all they had to go on were _Archaeopteryx_, a few dromaeosaurs and a whole lot of theories based on biomechanics and modern biology of birds.

11) Campbell, K. E., Jr. (ed), 1992 -'Papers in Avian Paleontology.Honoring Pierce Brodkorb' (Incorporating the proceedings of the II international symposium of the Society of Avian Paleontology and Evolution, 1988),
Los Angeles, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County: 1-479
Another of those rare volumes that fossil birds in general (not just the early ones linked to the origin debate). Being from SAPE, it will include the bird specialists that favour non-dino ancestry.

12) Gauthier, J. and Gall., L.F., 2001 - 'New perspectives on the origin and early evolution of birds (Proceedings of the international symposium in honor of John H. Ostrom, 1999)'
New Haven, Peabody Museum of Natural History: 549-589.
Very strong on the 'pro-dino' side, and the last section 'Controversial topics in bird origins' underlines this. Lots of other work on biomechanics, origin of flight etc...

13) Zhou, Z. and Zhang, F., 2002 - 'Proceedings of the 5th Symposium of the Society of Avian Paleontology and Evolution, Beijing, 1-4 June 2000', Beijing, Science Press: 1-311.
Another SAPE conference, same goes for this as for 'book 11' above, just a decade later. (I only know of these two SAPE volumes, if anyone knows of any others please let me know!)

...Anyway, I'll leave it there. I think that includes all the 'must haves'. let me know if I've missed anything. To go further would be to include primary scientific literature in palaeontology and biology journals which can be tracked down on databases (the conference proceedings above however can be hard to find if you don't know about them).


At 04:29 AM 19/10/2005, birdbooker@zipcon.net wrote:
I was wondering if anyone can recommend good books on fossil birds? I have the dover reprint of Heilmann's Origin of Birds and Dingus's The Mistaken Extinction. What other titles should be in a basic fossil bird book library?
Ian Paulsen
Bainbridge Island, WA USA
\"Rallidae all the way!\"

Chris Glen
PhD candidate,
School of Biomedical Science
Anatomy and Developmental Biology Dept.,
University of Queensland
Room: 418
Phone: (07) 3365 2720
Mob: 0408 986 301
Email: c.glen@.uq.edu.au
\_ \ / ,\
||| |||\_`###==-
"" ""
One Late Mesozoic mammal to an other after a hard day of dodging
dinosaur feet and droppings, only to find their burrow trampled:
"Hey, a falling star, make a wish."