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Dinosaurs are fascinating creatures and their popularity seems never ending, fuelled by films such as Jurassic Park and documentaries such as Walking with Dinosaurs. Yet dinosaurs (or more precisely non-avian dinosaurs) last trod the Earth 65 million years ago. All we know of them today are their fossilised bones, the tracks and traces that they left behind and, in very rare instances, some of the soft tissues or even traces of their chemistry. In many respects dinosaurs present us with one of the ultimate forensic challenges: they comprise the fragmentary remains of creatures that died many tens of millions of years ago, rather than just recently, or a few tens of years ago, which is the problem usually faced by forensic pathologists. How much do we really know about them, and to what extent can their remains inform us about ancient worlds, and indeed about the history of our planet?
In this Very Short Introduction David Norman discusses how dinosaurs were first discovered and interpreted, and how our understanding of them has changed over the past 200 years. He looks at some of the amazing discoveries that have enabled us to gain new and unexpected insights into dinosaurs as animals with natural histories and behaviours, and considers some of the biggest questions in dinosaur biology, such as the implications of them having warm blood. Norman also shows how research upon dinosaurs has been enriched, particularly in recent decades, by technological break-throughs, which complement the informed speculation and luck which have played a part in many of the major discoveries.
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David Norman, Odell Fellow in the Natural Sciences, Reader in Palaeobiology, University of Cambridge
David Norman is a palaeontologist based at the University of Cambridge. Much of his research work has concentrated on the anatomy, biology, and evolution of ornithischian dinosaurs. He is one of the world's leading experts on iguanodontian dinosaurs and has trained a group of students who are themselves now leading palaeontologists and functional morphologists in their fields of research. David is a best-selling author and has been awarded prizes for some of his books, many of which are intended to introduce science to audiences through the use of dinosaurs as a starting point; he has also been an advisor on various television programmes, notably for Sir David Attenborough (Lost Worlds, Vanished Lives) and the late Walter Kronkite (Dinosaur!), as well as the multi-award winning Walking with Dinosaurs.
Table of Contents
Introduction 1. Dinosaurs in perspective 2. Our view of dinosaurs updated by...birds 3. A new perspective on Iguanodon 4. Relationships between dinosaurs 5. Dinosaurs: their biology and way of life 6. The anatomy and variety of dinosaurs: what does it all mean? 7. Dinosaur research: observation, techniques and deductions 8. Looking to the future from the past References Further Reading Index