Tuesday, November 20, 2018

My 26th Pair of Reviews

As an Art Evolved member, I post a pair of my reviews here every so often, the 1st being positive & the 2nd being negative. I'd greatly appreciate you reading & voting "Helpful" for said reviews in the bolded links below. Besides wanting to make sure said reviews give a good idea of what to expect, they need all the "Helpful" votes they can get because 1) the 1st is for a great book that deserves more attention, & 2) the 2nd is outnumbered by opposing reviews (which don't give a good idea of what to expect: https://www.charlesbridge.com/products/if-you-were-raised-by-a-dinosaur ). Many thanks in advance.

P.S. For my previous reviews, see the following posts:
-My 1st-10th Pairs of Reviews: http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2015/06/my-10th-pair-of-reviews.html
-My 11th-20th Pairs of Reviews: http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2017/09/my-20th-pair-of-reviews.html
-"My 21st Pair of Reviews": http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2017/11/my-21st-pair-of-reviews.html
-"My 22nd Pair of Reviews": http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2018/02/my-22nd-pair-of-reviews.html
-"My 23rd Pair of Reviews": http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2018/05/my-23rd-pair-of-reviews.html
-"My 24th Pair of Reviews": http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2018/07/my-24th-pair-of-reviews.html
-"My 25th Pair of Reviews": http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2018/09/my-25th-pair-of-reviews.html

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More cladistics yay! ( https://www.amazon.com/review/RV35J07GNJZDT/ref=pe_1098610_137716200_cm_rv_eml_rv0_rv ): 5/5

To quote Grandmother Fish ( https://plus.google.com/+Grandmotherfish/posts/9vgV2CqjerP ), clades "are central to a modern understanding of how we living things relate to each other." Before Holtz's "Dinosaurs", Witmer's "The Search for the Origin of Birds" (henceforth Search) was the best children's dino book when it came to introducing older kids to cladistics as well as the best pre-Sinosauropteryx dino-bird book for older kids. In this review, I list the 3 main reasons why I think that is.

1) Like Hedley's "Dinosaurs and Their Living Relatives", Chapters 1-2 of Search cover cladistics & archosaurs. In fact, Search is even better: Not only does Search cover much of the same background info ("Homology versus convergence"), but also goes well beyond ("Primitive versus derived"); Thus, Search does more in 2 chapters than Hedley's book does in 4 chapters. 1 of my only gripes is that Search doesn't use the word "cladistics".*

2) Like Schlein's "The Puzzle of the Dinosaur-bird: The Story of Archaeopteryx", Chapters 3-8 of Search cover the history of "the dinosaur-bird connection" from the 1860s to the 1970s, the Protoavis controversy, the "Time Problem", & "The Origin of Flight". In fact, Search is even better: While both books invite readers to "inspect the evidence [scientists] have found, and [follow the] debate over what the evidence means", only Search does so in the context of cladistics; This is especially apparent in Chapter 6 (E.g. See the 1st Witmer quote, which is especially good at showing why birds & dinos are too similar to be convergent).

3) Chapter 9 weighs the evidence & concludes that birds "evolved from a Triassic or Jurassic theropod dinosaur that resembled Deinonychus but was much smaller and, perhaps, spent a lot of time in the trees." However, because no such dinos were then known, the fringe group BAND (= Birds Are Not Dinosaurs) put forth the "Time Problem" & "The Origin of Flight" as arguments against said conclusion (I.e. Birds can't be dinos because [1] the earliest bird fossils are older than the most bird-like dino fossils, & [2] the earliest birds were small tree-climbers, but the most bird-like dinos were large ground-runners). The 2nd Witmer quote sums up why said conclusion is widely accepted & said arguments aren't. Put another way, said conclusion is based on mountains of hard evidence, while said arguments are from ignorance. It's also worth mentioning that many such dinos have since been found, including Anchiornis & Xiaotingia.

*My other gripe is the hit-&-miss paleoart: While some of the reconstructions are mostly accurate (Archaeopteryx, Compsognathus, Hypsilophodon, & Euparkeria), others are mostly not-so-accurate (Sphenosuchus, Deinonychus, & Troodon); The Holtz quote sums up everything wrong with the latter. I hate to say it because Mather's paleoart is nice to look at ( http://thisisbozeman.com/discovering-first-montanans ).
Quoting Holtz ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2013/05/holtzs-dinosaur-lovers-bookshelf-article.html ): "Paleoart is, admittedly, a difficult enterprise: after all, its subject matter is long dead, and science can never expect to know very much about the creaturers' external surfaces or, for that matter, any of their other perishable features. Nevertheless, there is one inviolate rule of dinosaur restoration: if the known fossil skeleton conflicts with the shape of the reconstruction, the reconstruction must be wrong. That rule gives the casual reader at least a fighting chance of separating the wheat from the chaff: distinguishing books that depict restorations consistent with fossil specimens from books that have more in common with medieval bestiaries, conjured from rumor and imagination alone. One reliable clue that a book belongs to the former group is the inclusion of drawings or photographs of the fossil skeletons on which the restorations are based." 
Quoting Witmer: "Deinonychus is not all that similar to modern birds, but shows a number of close similarities to the Jurassic bird Archaeopteryx: the number and shapes of the openings in the snout, the positioning of the teeth in the skull, the number of fingers and the relative sizes of the finger bones, the unusual shapes of some of the wrist bones, the arrangement of the hip bones, a special kind of ankle structure, and a certain foot structure.
If we look closely at this list, we'll see that some characteristics give us more specific information about relationships than others. Some of these birdlike features (such as the ankle joint) are found in all dinosaurs, but in almost no other archosaurs. These specializations show that birds might be related to dinosaurs. Some of the features...the snout openings and foot structure...are specializations of a certain group of dinosaurs, the theropod saurischian dinosaurs. Some of the features...the positioning of the teeth, the hand and wrist structure...are found in only a few kinds of theropod dinosaurs. One feature...the hip bones...is found only in Deinonychus and its relatives.
These shared specializations that we see in Archaeopteryx, Deinonychus, and other dinosaurs suggest that birds indeed evolved from dinosaurs. But this idea is different from the old, original theory of dinosaur-bird relationships discussed in Chapter 3. The old version was very vague. It didn't show which group of dinosaurs might be closer to birds. This new theory not only says that birds evolved from dinosaurs, but also identifies a particular group of dinosaurs, the theropods. It even points to a small group of theropod dinosaurs that are most closely related to birds. There are so many derived similarities between birds and these Deinonychus-like theropod dinosaurs that most paleontologists today believe birds are theropod dinosaurs!" 
Quoting Witmer: "In searching for the origin of birds, we came across many conflicting clues:...How do we make sense of these clues that point us in different directions?...The clues from the ages of fossils are not fully trustworthy. It's possible that we may someday discover Deinonychus-like fossils in old-enough rocks. If that happened, the "time problem" would disappear…The clues from the theories on the origin of flight are even less reliable. We don't know much about how dinosaurs lived their lives. Maybe some of the Deinonychus-like theropods actually were small and spent a lot of time in trees...The most reliable clues are the ones that come from the structure of the bones themselves. They are more certain…we can look at them, measure them, hold them in our hands."

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The worst popular baby dino book ( https://www.amazon.com/review/R2PBFKZ4BOZCNN/ref=pe_1098610_137716200_cm_rv_eml_rv0_rv ): 1/5

Short version: If you want the best baby dino book for older kids, get Zoehfeld's "Dinosaur Parents, Dinosaur Young: Uncovering the Mystery of Dinosaur Families" & read it in conjunction with other, more recent books (E.g. Holtz's "Dinosaurs" in general & Chapter 36 in particular). Brooklyn's "If You Were Raised by a Dinosaur" (henceforth You) may be the worst. It just goes to show what a difference some expert consulting & personal research can make.

Long version: Read on.

Many popular baby dino books are OK, but not great. There are 3 main reasons for why I think that is: 1) They're mixed bags in terms of paleoart (Quoting Miller: "I bought the book expecting a more technical discussion of the animals discussed therein...but was surprised to find beautiful paintings of questionably-restored dinosaurs"); 2) They're confusing messes in terms of organization; 3) They fail to cover many baby dino-related subjects & those that are covered are done so in an insufficient manner (I.e. Sometimes, they simplify things to the point of being meaningless; Other times, they're just plain wrong). In this review, I focus on reasons #1 & #3 & why I think they make You the worst popular baby dino book.

1) Not only is You's paleoart very questionable, but also very ugly. More specifically, it consists of cheap-looking collages of anachronistic assemblages of mostly gray/green/brown animals with wonky anatomy in inappropriate environments: In reference to "anachronistic assemblages", see the cover; There's a generic rhamphorhynchid pterosaur, a Massospondylus family, an Apatosaurus family, & a T.rex family; In reference to "wonky anatomy", see "Review update #52 (It's a big 1)!" for everything wrong with the cover in terms of anatomy ( https://www.deviantart.com/jd-man/journal/Review-update-52-It-s-a-big-1-772428585 ); In reference to "inappropriate environments", the cover depicts a grassland environment despite the fact that, to quote Holtz ( https://www.geol.umd.edu/~tholtz/G104/lectures/104shadow.html ), "grasses seem to have been relatively rare in the Mesozoic, and did not form grasslands until much later. Ground cover in the later Mesozoic was a mixture of ferns and herbaceous angiosperms. So as far as we know, no dinosaur other than birds ever wandered in prairies or savannahs".

3A) In reference to "Sometimes", You's writing is overcomplicated (as opposed to oversimplified). More specifically, it's like when "Chandler and Monica ask Joey to write a recommendation letter for them to the adoption agency. To sound smart, Joey uses a thesaurus [on every word]" ( https://globalnews.ca/news/315234/friends-sitcom-helps-esl-community-learn-english/ ). The Brooklyn quote in "Review update #52 (It's a big 1)!" is the best example of that ( https://www.deviantart.com/jd-man/journal/Review-update-52-It-s-a-big-1-772428585 ): For 1, it's also the best example of incorrectly pluralized dino names (Seriously, "T. rexes"?); For another, it shamelessly rips off Chapter 17 of Holtz's "Dinosaurs".

3B) In reference to "Other times", this is especially apparent in the Brooklyn quote below (which fails on so many levels that I need to quote the UCMP just to demonstrate): It fails to understand that Geist/Jones are 1) not dino experts, & 2) known for "publishing with a hidden agenda" ( https://scienceblogs.com/tetrapodzoology/2009/07/17/birds-cannot-be-dinosaurs ); It fails to understand "modern-day [precocial] birds and alligators", most of which DO need parental care, including most of those in Geist/Jones's study; It fails to understand Maiasaura (which, to paraphrase Anthony J. Martin, "is arguably the best understood of nesting dinosaurs, only rivaled by its neighbors in the same field area, [Troodon]"); It fails to understand that Geist/Jones's study was at least 9 years out of date at the time of You's publication.

1 more thing of note: To quote Dussart (See "Biosciences on the Internet: A Student's Guide"), "The speed and ease of email, plus its association with the web, mean that it is relatively easy to find and contact experts"; Thus, there's no excuse for You to not have expert consulting, especially given that some experts make a living from consultancy (E.g. Darren Naish: https://darrennaish.wordpress.com/ ); At the very least, having it would've helped prevent many of the textual fails (if not the visual ones too); In fact, said fails are so basic that they could've easily been avoided with up-to-date personal research; Unfortunately, there's very little of said research in You & it's mostly used incorrectly; In contrast, Sattler's "Tyrannosaurus Rex and Its Kin: The Mesozoic Monsters" shows how good a non-authoritative book can be with a lot of said research ( https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R3INFL96O3PWAS/ref=cm_cr_srp_d_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=068807748X ).
Quoting Brooklyn: "Not all scientists agree with the interpretation that Maiasaura babies needed parental care. Scientists Nicholas Geist and Terry Jones examined the hip and knee bones of different birds and alligators. They compared the hip bones and knee joints of Maiasaura to that of modern-day birds and alligators, which don't need parental care. The Maiasaura hips were at least as well developed as the birds', and the knee joints were no weaker than the birds' or alligators'. This might mean that Maiasaura babies did not need care from their parents as Horner believed." 
Quoting the UCMP ( http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/science/eggshell/eggshell_case1.php ): "In their original description of embryonic remains from the Willow Creek Anticline, Horner and Weishampel (1988) cited degree of ossification of the leg bones of Maiasaura and Troodon (then thought to be Orodromeus) to indicate the level of mobility of young after hatching. Subsequently, Geist and Jones (1996) compared extant perinatal (the developmental stage immediately prior to and following hatching) birds and crocodilians to fossil dinosaur embryos and hatchlings. They found that the extent of hip bone development was more important than leg bone development for recognizing precocial versus altricial hatchlings, and that the leg bones of Maiasaura, Troodon, and other dinosaurs did not reliably indicate the mobility of a hatchling. Geist and Jones suggested that the hatchling dinosaurs studied were likely precocial upon birth, although this does not preclude the provision of extended parental care. Horner et al. (2001) countered Geist and Jones' (1996) argument after an extensive histological analysis of turtle, crocodilian, non-avian dinosaur, and bird embryonic and perinatal bones that compared bone developmental patterns and growth rates. The authors correlated ossification and growth rates with life-history strategies. Horner et al. (2001) concluded that developmental differences (including growth rates) in embryonic and perinatal dinosaur bones from the Willow Creek Anticline indicate a precocial lifestyle for Troodon and Orodromeus hatchlings and an altricial lifestyle for hadrosaur hatchlings that necessitated parental care; this work supported their original hypothesis (Horner and Weishampel 1988)."

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