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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
__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
__ 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
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
__ 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
__ 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
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, firstname.lastname@example.org 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
Bainbridge Island, WA USA
\"Rallidae all the way!\"
School of Biomedical Science
Anatomy and Developmental Biology Dept.,
University of Queensland
Q 4072, AUSTRALIA
Phone: (07) 3365 2720
Mob: 0408 986 301
\_ \ / ,\
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."