Friday, 26 March 2010

Book review; The Horned Dinosaurs

This is my first ever proper book review so here goes: The Horned Dinosaurs by Peter Dodson is basically an account of almost every Ceratopsian specimen and species discovered up until its publishing which was is 1996.

Although the book is almost as old as me and as a result is fourteen years old it is still up to date in the species it does describe. With the discoveries of Albertoceratops among others and the recent progress in the understanding of Psittacosaurus the book still does not give a complete enough picture of Ceratopsian discoveries, but then that is because many of these discoveries took place well after the books publication.

Outdatedness aside this book was brilliant. Its concise and explicit nature made it a joy to read, with lots of juicy facts and figures that could leave you to chew over for hours. The Horned Dinosaurs also shows how opinions and knowledge have changed since the 1800's. Peter even devotes 5 whole pages of the book to Protoceratops eggs only to finally come to the conclusion that they turned out to belong to Theropods, not Ceratopsians. All of this was necessary to describe the historical perspective and implications of these eggs. The main benefit of describing historical errors is that it prevents you from (when reading older books) making mistakes by believing the outdated errors.

Another thing about The Horned Dinosaurs; which I think everyone will agree on, is the way that Dodson presents even the most dry aspects of Palaeontology such as anatomy and cladistics in an interesting way. For example as he describes the key bones and skeletal features of Ceratopsians he does not merely list them, but recalls a time when he had to assemble a resin cast of a Centrosaurus skeleton. As he tells the story the descriptions of the bones are incorporated into the situation given and as you read it really feels as if you are there assembling the skeleton piece by piece, grouping like bones with like.

Finally the presentation of The Horned Dinosaurs is that of a small, easily portable handbook that can be carried anywhere without trouble as well as nice plate illustrations by Wayne Barlowe. The Horned Dinosaurs is definitely recommended as a good read and as well as learning tons about a group of dinosaurs I previously knew next to nothing about I thoughrouly enjoyed it. As the first comprehensive and specialist overview of the Ceratopsia in recent years I say Dodson did a fantastic job.

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