Dinos in D&D

Monday, December 28, 2009


Friday, December 4, 2009

Because dinosaurs are an important part of popular culture and hence are easily recognizable, the study of them serves as an apt vehicle for understanding how science is applied to their study. A starting point for applying the science of dinosaur studies is to understand what is or is not a dinosaur, using a definition as a prompt for asking questions, as a large number of animals regarded as dinosaurs actually are not. A dinosaur is defined initially as a reptile-like or bird-like animal, with an upright posture, that spent most (perhaps all) of its life on land and lived from about 230–65 million years ago. Dinosaurs then can be classified by either a Linnaean or phylogenetic (cladistic) classification system. The cladistic method is preferred because it better expresses hypotheses about evolutionary relatedness within dinosaurs as a group. These hypotheses are best described through a cladogram, a diagram that shows ancestor-descendant relationships.

The two sciences most commonly associated with dinosaur studies are geology and biology, which are also augmented by other sciences, such as chemistry, physics, math, and computer science. Their use illustrates how the interrelation of all sciences can contribute to a field of study. Despite the apprehension of many people about the sciences, especially those that frequently use symbols and numbers, it is necessary to know a minimal amount about them to better understand dinosaurs. Professional paleontologists typically have to know some facets of all scientific disciplines. In many cases they also must be illustrators, writers, public speakers, and deal with the physical and logistical difficulties of performing fieldwork in remote locations.

Popular culture, such as books, TV shows, movies, artwork, and Web pages, reflect public ideas about dinosaurs that may or may not be based on scientific reality but they can follow general scientific trends. Whenever encountering these images of dinosaurs, the question of “What evidence justifies these depictions?” should be asked. However, of all dinosaur artwork, scientific illustration is the most important with regard to dinosaur studies and combines scientific knowledge with artistic abilities to convey accurate information.

Math is an essential tool for dinosaur studies and is expressed mostly through measurements, which are made through the international standard of the metric system. Math can be used in nearly every aspect of dinosaur studies, as demonstrated by the use of some simple calculations of estimated dinosaur weights based on their models. Such step-by-step methods help to show that math has practical uses in dinosaur studies and can be made more understandable in an applicative context.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

The dinosaurs, and many other creatures such as the pterosaurs, mosasaurs, and ammonoids, went extinct at the end of the Cretaceous. There is considerable evidence that dinosaurs, after reaching a peak of diversity about seventy-four million years ago, began a gradual decline. Unquestionably, though, something delivered the coup de grâce. In Chapter 8 I tell the story of the bitter, vicious controversy that raged over the reasons for the mass extinction that ended the Mesozoic. Many regard the dinosaurs’ demise with sadness. Many a kid has fantasized that somehow, somewhere, there is a lost forest where T. rex continues to prowl. But if the dinosaurs had not gone extinct, it would be most unlikely that we would be here. During the Mesozoic, our mammalian ancestors were small, nondescript, probably nocturnal creatures. While dinosaurs were dominant, there simply was no free ecological space for large mammals to occupy. Only after the extinction of the dinosaurs did the remarkable evolutionary radiation of mammals occur.

The dinosaurs were the lords of the Mesozoic. Their demise offers a deep lesson to us: The earth does not grant tenure. On the contrary, 99 percent of all species that have ever lived are now extinct. Even more sobering is the realization that several different hominid species have lived on Earth. Only one survives—Homo sapiens. We tend to think that the “sapiens” part of that name, our intelligence, gives us an edge that will allow us to escape the fate of other species. Well, we certainly have been successful in the short term—there are six billion of us on the planet, making us by far the most numerous species of large animal. By contrast, only about two thousand tigers survive in the wild. But the deepest lesson of the dinosaurs is the awful, incomprehensible depth of time. Sixty-five million years from now, will any of our descendants be alive? If so, will they be in any sense human? Will they remember any of our literature, our art, our science, our religions? After all, geological time shows that the only thing permanent is the fact of change. Evolution on Earth began with the first self-replicating molecules four billion years ago, and it will continue until the sun dies.

Dinosaurs - Recommended Reading

These include the anthology The Complete Dinosaur, edited by J. O. Farlow and M. K. Brett- Surman; David Norman’s Illustrated Dinosaur Encyclopedia; John Noble Wilford’s The Riddle of the Dinosaur; and Don Lessem’s Dinosaurs Rediscovered (originally titled The Kings of Creation). Almost as valuable as the Farlow and Brett-Surman anthology is the Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs (San Diego: Academic Press, 1997), edited by P. J. Currie and K. Padian. Good books on particular types of dinosaurs include John Horner and Don Lessem’s The Complete T. rex (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993) and Peter Dodson’s The Horned Dinosaurs (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996). Gregory S. Paul’s Predatory Dinosaurs of the World (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988) is interesting and contains the author’s own excellent illustrations but makes many very controversial claims about how fast these creatures ran and how they lived.

Some of the most interesting recent books on dinosaurs attempt to reconstruct their lives and habits. John Horner’s books can be particularly recommended as works that try to tell us about dinosaur behavior and lifestyles. His book Digging Dinosaurs: The Search That Unraveled the Mystery of Baby Dinosaurs (New York: Workman, 1988), cowritten with J. Gorman, tells about his discovery of dinosaur eggs and nests. These discoveries prompted Horner to name one dinosaur Maiasaura, which means “good mother lizard,” because of evidence that it kept nests and nurtured its young. A more recent book coauthored with E. Dobb, Dinosaur Lives: Unearthing an Evolutionary Saga (San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1997), gives evidence for other aspects of dinosaur behavior.

There are two college-level textbooks on dinosaurs, Dinosaurs: The Textbook by Spencer G. Lucas (Dubuque, IA: William C. Brown Publishers, 1994) and The Evolution and Extinction of the Dinosaurs by David E. Fastovsky and David B. Weishampel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996). Both are very good, well illustrated, and considerably livelier than the usual cut-and-dried textbooks.

A word of caution: There are many good books on dinosaurs. I have been able to list only a few of them here. However, there are also many very bad books on dinosaurs, especially books for children. These books are often written by people who do not know much about dinosaurs and who don’t mind making a few bucks by passing on their ignorance to others. Some years ago Don Lessem and other paleontologists formed the Dinosaur Society to safeguard against misinformation. If a book bears the seal of the Dinosaur Society, it will contain accurate information—otherwise, caveat emptor.

ITV1 saves Primeval from extinction after deal with digital channel Watch

Friday, October 2, 2009

'Groundbreaking' deal to share costs with UKTV channel Watch prompts ITV1 to announce 13 new episodes over two series"

Leigh Holmwood

Dinosaur drama Primeval has been rescued from extinction three months after ITV1 said it would not recommission the programme – thanks to a "groundbreaking" deal to share costs with a digital channel.

MediaGuardian.co.uk revealed in May that producer Impossible Pictures was trying to put together a deal to save the show, in which a group of scientists in present-day Britain fight prehistoric and futuristic creatures that have been transported through time. But ITV announced in June that it would not proceed.

However, ITV today said it had agreed to share the next two series, comprising 13 episodes in total, with UKTV channel Watch after a deal was hammered out by Impossible Pictures and partner BBC Worldwide, which distributes the show internationally.

In the new funding structure BBC Worldwide has overtaken ITV to become the largest partner, with BBC America – which broadcasts the series in the US – joining Germany's Pro7 as a co-production partner.

ITV1 will premiere the fourth series of the show in early 2011. Watch – which already airs sci fi shows Doctor Who and Torchwood – will repeat it soon after and then premiere the fifth series later the same year, followed by ITV1.

The new series will reunite the stars from the previous series, including Hannah Spearritt, Andrew-Lee Potts and Jason Flemyng, alongside the acclaimed special effects created by Framestore CFC. Showrunner Adrian Hodges will oversee the series.

Tim Haines, creative director of Impossible Pictures, said: "I am thrilled that ITV has agreed to this new deal, which will allow Impossible Pictures to produce another 13 episodes of Primeval. The confidence demonstrated in the programme's continued success here and abroad will help us bring more big-screen action and a whole host of new creatures roaring back into people's living rooms."

Laura Mackie, director of ITV drama commissioning, added: "We're delighted to have agreed this new deal with Impossible to return Primeval to ITV1. The innovative nature of this partnership will allow the show to maintain its high production values."

The third run of Primeval launched with 5.3 million viewers in April. Impossible Pictures is developing a film version.

ITV also announced the axing of its other Saturday teatime drama, Demons, in June, saying it wanted to concentrate on its peaktime drama.

Primeval has sold to more than 45 countries worldwide, including Australia, Singapore and South Korea.

What If...Dinosauroid

Friday, September 25, 2009

A theoretical reptilian humanoid has also been the focus of a widely discussed thought experiment in speculative evolution. In particular, in 1982 paleontologist Dale Russell, curator of vertebrate fossils at the National Museum of Canada in Ottawa, conjectured a possible evolutionary path that might have been taken by the dinosaur Troodon (then called Stenonychosaurus) had they not all perished in the K/T extinction event 65 million years ago. The essence of this thought experiment was that bipedal predators (theropods) which existed at that time, such as Troodon, could have evolved into intelligent beings similar in body plan to humans. Over geologic time, Russell noted that there had been a steady increase in the encephalization quotient or EQ (the relative brain weight when compared to other species with the same body weight) among the dinosaurs. Russell had discovered the first Troodontid skull, and noted that, while its EQ was low compared to humans, it was six times higher than that of other dinosaurs. If the trend in Troodon evolution had continued to the present, its brain case could by now measure 1,100 cm3; comparable to that of a human. Troodontids had semi-manipulative fingers, able to grasp and hold objects to a certain degree, and binocular vision.

Russel proposed that this Dinosauroid, like most dinosaurs of the troodontid family, would have had large eyes and three fingers on each hand, one of which would have been partially opposed. As with most modern reptiles (and birds), he conceived of its genitalia as internal. Russell speculated that it would have required a navel, as a placenta aids the development of a large brain case. However, it would not have possessed mammary glands, and would have fed its young, as birds do, on regurgitated food. He speculated that its language would have sounded somewhat like bird song.

Russell's thought experiment has been met with criticism from other paleontologists since the 1980s, many of whom point out that Russell's Dinosauroid is overly anthropomorphic. Gregory S. Paul (1988) and Thomas R. Holtz Jr., consider it "suspiciously human" (Paul, 1988) and argue that a large-brained, highly intelligent troodontid would retain a more standard theropod body plan, with a horizontal posture and long tail, and would probably manipulate objects with the snout and feet in the manner of a bird, rather than with human-like "hands".

Dino is Angry at World

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Grumpy Dino
21 May 07 Today's Kongcept artwork comes from Greg Broadmore, who created a Mr "Angry at the World" Dino for Peter Jackson's King Kong.
Greg explains how this illustration came about:
"This illustration was relatively late in the design process and was actually for what ended up being the quadrupedal crocodile like reptile that attacks Anne in the log: 'Foetodon'.
Angry at the World by Greg Broadmore "At the time we had no idea of the nature of the scene that this creature would appear in, all we knew was that it had to be a new dinosaur. Although we quickly found out that this would be a quadruped, at this point anything was open. I did this guy as a medium to large sized therapod but with a slightly more upright and so 'classic' dinosaur posture. It has huge blades as it's front claws.
"I really enjoyed getting to just make up a dinosaur, I do that anyway for fun, so this was just a great opportunity to have fun with design. I really got into the weight and texture of the skin, I love doing that stuff."
Check out the Kongcept Image Gallery for larger pop ups of this image. If you're a Weta Forum Member, you can leave comments, too!

Weta Artists in Magazine Double-Header

Weta Artists in magazine Double Header
Weta artists have recently featured in a well organized double feature in design magazines 3D World and ImagineFX.
3D World magazine
First, Weta Productions animation director Steve Lambert provided a complete (21 page!) step-by-step guide to animating a dinosaur in 3D World.  The contents included:

  • Modelling a basic blockmesh in Maya
  • Refining the form and sculpting surface detail in ZBrush
  • Painting surface textures in ZBrush
  • Setting up a production-quality full-body rig in Maya
  • Keyframing basic walk and run cycles
  • Setting up a subsurface scattering shader network in Maya
  • Rendering the finished animation
The magazine’s companion DVD included seven hours of screen capture videos showing Steve at work.
ImagineFX Cover
ImagineFX followed up with Weta Workshop designer and illustrator Greg Broadmore walking us through the process of creating the Dinosaur used in Steve’s 3D World tutorial.
Greg takes us from basic research into dinosaurs, through deciding on a name to pencil-and-paper sketches, bone models and then detailed colour and texture work in Photoshop.

Spinosaurus and Film

Friday, August 28, 2009

The fossil bones of Spinosaurus, a large theropod dinosaur of the Late Cretaceous, 95 million years ago. The type specimen was first described in 1915 near Marsá Matruh, Egypt, on the Mediterranean coast. Its most striking feature is a set of dorsal spines that probably supported a sail-like membrane.

The Spinosaurus is one of the most massive predators on land; more than 50 feet long and weighing over ten tons. The massive sail on its back only increases the terrifying impact of this creature. Fortunately, it is not as swift as some other large predators and is generally a scavenger rather than an active hunter.

If a Spinosaurus gets a hold of prey with its bite, it deals bite damage if it maintains the hold, as it shakes its prey violently in its long jaws. Creatures up to three sizes smaller can be swallowed whole


While surfing channels last night, I had come across the second half of "Jurassic Park 3" on TV. It had reminded me of an often misunderstood point when it comes to Tyrannosaurus.rex sized or larger (only slightly though) or maybe only longer but not necessarily heavier (as far as I know for Spinosaurus aegyptiacus which in 2001,to my amazement, seemed to become the most hated dinosaur of every geek on the internet who, upon finding out that it would not only defeat Tyrannosaurus in battle in "Jurassic Park 3",but there would not be a second battle between the two species ending with a Tyrannosaurus victory.) The specialists,(movie versions, anyway)would point out continually that the Spinosaurus (Giganotosaurus would have been more appropriate for most of the Spinosaur's roles, but would likely have appeared to be just another T.rex lookalike to the movie-going public) was bigger than the T.rex, setting up the battle, really giving the impression that T.rex didn't stand a chance against it in any battle, at any time. I would really think of the Spinosaur (if really that big, remains are still too fragmentary to tell) as a potential rival to the tyrannosaur with any conflict liable to go either way. Not that it hurts my feelings to see a Spinosaurus take down a T.rex in an action movie that's not realistic anyway, (I prefer the Spinosaurus over T.rex any day!)I would have tried to make it more of a surprise to the audience if I really wanted the T.rex to get killed in battle, say against another incidental dinosaur like Triceratops, where the outcome of the fight is not important to the rest of the film.

John Bridgman

As far as Jurassic park 3 went, the reason the Tyranosaurus-Rex/Spinosaur battle was so early, was to set the Spinosaur up as a stalking horse for the rest of the film (How a 45 foot animal sneaks up on you I don't know). It was then supposed to have a cataclysmic battle with all those US marines who appeared at the end of the film. But they ran out of money, and the film "just stopped".

The bit that annoyed me most was when the Spinosaur's neck was in the Tyrannosaurs jaws, and it shrugged the T-Rex off. I'd have thought with the bite strength that would have been game over.

David Craven


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

About 3.8 billion years ago, life formed in the oceans as simple soft-bodied microorganisms. There were no other types of life forms on the planet at this time. Life only existed in the oceans. For more than 3 billion years, microorganisms ruled the planet. Then, about 670 million years ago, a mass extinction killed nearly all life. This mass extinction is not very well known. Scientists hypothesize that a change in the ocean level could have affected the habitat of the microorganisms in numerous ways.

After this first mass extinction, millions of years passed. It was as though life was gathering its breath. Then, about 570 million years ago, it seemed as if a gigantic water balloon suddenly burst open. Life exploded across the world. Animals developed hard parts, like shells and skeletons. The first vertebrates appeared at this time. They were the earliest ancestors of all the major groups of animals, including the human animal. Scientists call this the Cambrian Explosion of Life.

Like a gigantic wheel, this cycle of life and extinction continues throughout the history of the Earth. Let us briefly examine the five biggest mass extinctions.

Ordovician Mass Extinction—440 million years ago

The Ordovician mass extinction wiped out about 50% of some groups of marine animals. Some scientists think the most likely cause was an ice age. The Earth has experienced many ice ages over its history. An ice age is when most of the water on Earth freezes into thick sheets of ice. This would have destroyed marine habitats.

Devonian Mass Extinction—365 million years ago

The Devonian Period was known as the Age of the Fishes. The first sharks appeared, as did many kinds of primitive fishes. The Devonian mass extinction wiped out about 70% of tropical animals living in the ocean. Plants and animals on land were less affected. This mass extinction may have been caused by a global climate change, such as an ice age. This would have cooled the warm tropical waters, killing most of the animals that lived there.

The Great Dying: Permian Mass Extinction— 250 million years ago

Life flourished for more than 100 million years after the Devonian mass extinction. Reptiles appeared. These were the early ancestors of the dinosaurs, yet they were not the strongest creatures on the planet. During this time, mammal-like reptiles called gorgons were the most powerful reptiles on the planet. These ferocious creatures looked half-lion and half-dragon.

Then, the largest extinction in Earth’s history took place. It happened at the end of the Permian Period around 250 million years ago and lasted millions of years. It was far more devastating than the Cretaceous mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs. It is estimated that as much as 96% of all marine species were lost during the Permian mass extinction. On land, more than 75% of all animals died out.

Not all land animals became extinct at this time. This is lucky for human beings. The mammal-like reptiles did not die off completely during this mass extinction. Scientists have theorized that mammals (including Homo sapiens) eventually evolved from these animals.

Some scientists believe an asteroid hit the planet and caused what is often called the Great Dying. The most recent evidence suggests that a huge volcanic explosion in Siberia may have caused massive climate change, including extreme temperatures and lack of oxygen. We will look at some of these theories in greater detail later.

Triassic Mass Extinction—208 million years ago

The Triassic mass extinction took place about 208 million years ago. About 35% of life, including the mammal-like reptiles, died at this time. Like mammals, dinosaurs evolved from the mammal- like reptiles. The Age of the Dinosaurs began in the Triassic Period, as dinosaurs began to take over the planet. True mammals appeared near the end of the Triassic. They were only as big as a shrew, with a skull several inches long. Scientists think a combination of extremely hot temperatures and a lack of oxygen were responsible for this mass extinction, similar to the causes of the Permian mass extinction.

Cretaceous (K-T) Mass Extinction—65 million years ago

Mass extinction is known by the boundary between one geologic time period and the next. The Cretaceous mass extinction, better known as the K-T mass extinction, happened at the boundary between the Cretaceous Period and the Tertiary Period. The K stands for Kreide, which is the German word for chalk. It describes the chalky texture of the clay found in sedimentary rocks from that time. This clay layer is also known as the K-T boundary.

The Cretaceous mass extinction marked the end of the Age of the Dinosaurs. But the dinosaurs were not the only victims. Around 75% of all species were destroyed. All land animals over 55 pounds (25 kilograms) became extinct.

Some groups of animals escaped this mass extinction. There are many theories to explain why. Crocodiles, turtles, lizards, mammals, and birds were affected. However, they survived with most of their species intact. Many plants either died out or suffered heavy losses. However, the roots of many plants managed to survive and eventually grew again.

Mammals were no larger than a cat at this time. Most mammals lived underground, as if waiting for their turn to dominate the planet. They waited about 140 million years! After the dinosaurs became extinct, the Age of Mammals began. It still took nearly 60 million more years for the first humanlike ancestor to walk the Earth.

The extinction of the dinosaurs has been studied extensively. For the past 25 years, most scientists have thought that a very large asteroid hit the planet. Other scientists think that a massive volcanic eruption in India caused this extinction.

Are extraterrestrial asteroids responsible for the mass extinction of the dinosaurs? Could asteroids have caused any other mass extinction?

Pre-Glacial Dragons/Dinosaurs

Friday, June 26, 2009

Is it possible to conceive that, surrounded in Nature with such monstrous creatures, man, unless himself a colossal giant, could have survived, while all his foes have perished? HPB.

157. When We dispatch a messenger We wish him success in encountering the dragon. Indeed, this is no harmless, betailed, pre-glacial dragon, but the cruel human egoism. NEC. AY.

126. In place of the Diplodocus, kangaroos leap; in place of the Pterodactyl, bats fly; in place of the dragon, lizards. What is the meaning of this? Can it be degeneration? Actually, it is only adaptation. FWI. HR.

The animals of the first ray are no longer in existence on earth. EPI. AAB.

Equally powerful are saliva and the other secretions of the glands. But one must observe the causes of increase and decrease of the reaction of the energy of these products. The saliva of wrath is poisonous, and the saliva of benevolence is beneficial.. One must be able to oppose the fiery element by Atma, which is incombustible. Hier. HR.

Now we find in the Zohar a very strange assertion, one that is calculated to provoke the reader to merry laughter by its ludicrous absurdity. It tells us that the serpent, which was used by Shamael (the supposed Satan), to seduce Eve, was a kind of flying camel [[kamelomorphon]].

A "flying camel" is indeed too much for the most liberal-minded F.R.S. Nevertheless, the Zohar, which can hardly be expected to use the language of a Cuvier, was right in its description:* for we find it called in the old Zoroastrian MSS. Aschmogh, which in the Avesta is represented as having lost after the Fall "its nature and its name," and is described as a huge serpent with a camel's neck.

"There are no winged serpents, nor veritable dragons," asserts Salverte, " . . . grasshoppers are called by the Greeks winged serpents, and this metaphor may have created several narratives on the existence of winged serpents."

There are none now; but there is no reason why they should not have existed during the Mesozoic age; and Cuvier, who has reconstructed their skeletons, is a witness to "flying camels." Already, after finding simple fossils of certain saurians, the great naturalist has written, that, "if anything can justify the Hydra and other monsters, whose figures were so often repeated by mediaeval historians, it is incontestably the Plesiosaurus."

We are unaware if Cuvier had added anything in the way of a further mae culpa. But we may well imagine his confusion, for all his slanders against archaic veracity, when he found himself in the presence of a flying saurian, "the Pterodactyl" (found in Germany), "78 feet long, and carrying vigorous wings attached to its reptilian body." That fossil is described as a reptile, the little fingers of whose hands are so elongated as to bear a long membranous wing. Here, then, the "flying camel" of the Zohar is vindicated. For surely, between the long neck of the Plesiosaurus and the membranous wing of the Pterodactyl, or still better the Mosasaurus, there is enough scientific probability to build a "flying camel," or a long-necked dragon. Prof. Cope, of Philadelphia, has shown that the Mosasaurus fossil in the chalk was a winged serpent of this kind. There are characters in its vertebrae, which indicate union with the Ophidia rather than with the Lacertilia.

And now to the main question. It is well known that Antiquity has never claimed palaeontography and paleontology among its arts and sciences; and it never had its Cuviers. Yet on Babylonian tiles, and especially in old Chinese and Japanese drawings, in the oldest Pagodas and monuments, and in the Imperial library at Pekin, many a traveller has seen and recognised perfect representations of Plesiosauri and Pterodactyls in the multiform Chinese dragons.Moreover, the prophets speak in the Bible of the flying fiery serpents, and Job mentions the Leviathan. Now the following questions are put very directly:--

I. How could the ancient nations know anything of the extinct monsters of the carboniferous and Mesozoic times, and even represent and describe them orally and pictorially, unless they had either seen those monsters themselves or possessed descriptions of them in their traditions, which descriptions necessitate living and intelligent eye-witnesses?

II. And if such eye-witnesses are once admitted (unless retrospective clairvoyance is granted), how can humanity and the first palaeolithic men be no earlier than about the middle of the tertiary period? We must bear in mind that most of the men of science will not allow man to have appeared before the Quaternary period, and thus shut him out completely from the Cenozoic times. Here we have extinct species of animals, which disappeared from the face of the Earth millions of years ago, described by, and known to, nations whose civilization, it is said, could hardly have begun a few thousand years ago. How is this? Evidently either the Mesozoic time has to be made to overlap the Quaternary period, or man must be made the contemporary of the Pterodactyl and the Plesiosaurus.

It does not stand to reason, because the Occultists believe in and defend ancient wisdom and science, even though winged saurians are called "flying camels" in the translations of the Zohar, that we believe as readily in all the stories which the middle ages give us of such dragons. Pterodactyls and Plesiosauri ceased to exist with the bulk of the Third Race. When, therefore, we are gravely asked by Roman Catholic writers to credit Christopher Scherer's and Father Kircher's cock-and-bull stories of their having seen with their own eyes living fiery and flying dragons, respectively in 1619 and 1669, we may be allowed to regard their assertions as either dreams or fibs. Nor shall we regard otherwise than as a poetical license that other story told of Petrarch, who, while following one day his Laura in the woods and passing near a cave, is credited with having found a dragon, whom he forthwith stabbed with his dagger and killed, thus preventing the monster from devouring the lady of his heart. We would willingly believe the story had Petrarch lived in the days of Atlantis, when such antediluvian monsters may still have existed. We deny their existence in our present era. The sea-serpent is one thing, the dragon quite another. The former is denied by the majority because it exists and lives in the very depths of the ocean, is very scarce, and rises to the surface only when compelled, perhaps, by hunger. Thus keeping invisible, it may exist and still be denied. But if there was such a thing as a dragon of the above description, how could it have ever escaped detection? It is a creature contemporary with the earliest Fifth Race, and exists no more.

We read in the "Memoire a l'Academie" of the "naive astonishment of Geoffrey St. Hilaire, when M. de Paravey showed to him in some old Chinese works and Babylonian tiles dragons, . . . . saurians and ornithorhynchuses (aquatic animals found only in Australia), etc., extinct animals that he had thought unknown on earth. . . . till his own day."

The fossils reconstructed by science, which we know ought to be sufficient warrant for the possibility of even a Leviathan, let alone Isaiah's flying serpents, or saraph mehophep, which words are translated in all the Hebrew dictionaries as "saraph," enflamed or fiery venom, and "mehophep," flying. But, although Christian theology has always connected both (Leviathan and saraph mehophep) with the devil, the expressions are metaphorical and have nought to do with the "evil one." But the word Dracon has become a synonym for the latter. In Bretagne the word Drouk now signifies "devil," whence, as we are told by Cambry ("Monuments Celtiques," p. 299), the devil's tomb in England, Draghedanum sepulcrum. In Languedoc the meteoric fires and will-o'-the-wisps are called Dragg, and in Bretagne Dreag, Wraie (or wraith), the castle of Drogheda in Ireland meaning the devil's castle.

The ultramontane writers accept the whole series of draconian stories given by Father Kircher (Edipus AEgyptiacus, "De Genere Draconum,") quite seriously. According to that Jesuit, he himself saw a dragon which was killed in 1669 by a Roman peasant, as the director of the Museo Barberini sent it to him, to take the beast's likeness, which Father Kircher did and had it published in one of his in-folios. After this he received a letter from Christopher Scherer, Prefect of the Canton of Soleure, Switzerland, in which that official certifies to his having seen himself with his own eyes, one fine summer night in 1619, a living dragon. Having remained on his balcony "to contemplate the perfect purity of the firmament," he writes, "I saw a fiery, shining dragon rise from one of the caves of Mount Pilatus and direct itself rapidly towards Fluelen to the other end of the lake. Enormous in size, his tail was still longer and his neck very extended. His head and jaws were those of a serpent. In flying he emitted on his way numerous sparks (? !) . . . . I thought at first I was seeing a meteor, but soon looking more attentively, I was convinced by his flight and the conformation of his body that I saw a veritable dragon. I am happy to be thus able to enlighten your Reverence on the very real existence of those animals"; in dreams, the writer ought to have added, of long past ages.

As a convincing proof of the reality of the fact, a Roman Catholic refers the reader to the picture of that incident painted by Simon de Sienne, a friend of the poet, on the portal of the Church Notre Dame du Don at Avignon; notwithstanding the prohibition of the Sovereign Pontiff, who "would not allow this triumph of love to be enthroned in the holy place"; and adds: "Time has injured and rubbed out the work of art, but has not weakened its tradition." De Mirville's "Dragon-Devils" of our era seem to have no luck, as they disappear most mysteriously from the museums where they are said to have been. Thus the dragon embalmed by Ulysses Aldobranda and presented to the Musee du Senat, either in Naples or Bologna, "was there still in 1700, but is there no more." (Vol. 2, p. 427, "Pneumatologie.")

Therefore, in saying that we believe absolutely in ancient records and universal legends, we need hardly plead guilty before the impartial observer, for other and far more learned writers, among those who belong to the modern scientific school, evidently believe in much that the Occultists do: e.g., in "Dragons," not only symbolically, but also in their actual existence at one time.

"It would have indeed been a bold step for anyone, some thirty years ago, to have thought of treating the public to a collection of stories ordinarily reputed fabulous, and of claiming for them the consideration due to genuine realities, or to have advocated tales, believed to be time-honoured fictions, as actual facts; and those of the nursery as being, in many instances, legends, more or less distorted, descriptive of real beings or events. Nowadays it is a less hazardous proceeding . . . . . "

Thus opens the introduction to a recent (1886) and most interesting work by Mr. Charles Gould, called "Mythical Monsters." He boldly states his belief in most of these monsters. He submits that:-- "Many of the so-called mythical animals, which, throughout long ages and in all nations, have been the fertile subjects of fiction and fable, come


legitimately within the scope of plain matter-of-fact natural history; and that they may be considered, not as the outcome of exuberant fancy, but as creatures which really once existed, and of which, unfortunately, only imperfect and inaccurate descriptions have filtered down to us, probably very much refracted, through the mists of time.

. . . Traditions of creatures once co-existing with man, some of which are so weird and terrible as to appear at first sight to be impossible. For me the major part of those creatures are not chimeras but objects of rational study. The dragon, in place of being a creature evolved out of the imagination of an Aryan man by the contemplation of lightning flashing through the caverns which he tenanted, as is held by some mythologists, is an animal which once lived and dragged its ponderous coils and perhaps flew. .

. . . To me the specific existence of the Unicorn seems not incredible, and in fact, more probable than that theory which assigns its origin to a lunar myth . . . For my part I doubt the general derivation of myths from 'the contemplation of the visible workings of external nature.' It seems to me easier to suppose that the palsy of time has enfeebled the utterance of these oft-told tales until their original appearance is almost unrecognisable, than that uncultured savages should possess powers of imagination and poetical invention far beyond those enjoyed by the most instructed nations of the present day; less hard to believe that these wonderful stories of gods and demigods, of giants and dwarfs, of dragons and monsters of all descriptions are transformations than to believe them to be inventions."

It is shown by the same geologist that man, "successively traced to periods variously estimated from thirty thousand to one million years . . . . ., co-existed with animals which have long since become extinct (p. 20)." These animals, "weird and terrible," were, to give a few instances -- (1) "Of the genus Cidastes, whose huge bones and vertebrae show them to have attained a length of nearly two hundred feet . . . .

. . " The remains of such monsters, no less than ten in number, were seen by Professor Marsh in the Mauvaises Terres of Colorado, strewn upon the plains. (2) The Titanosaurus montanus, reaching fifty or sixty feet in length; (3) the Dinosaurians (in the Jurassic beds of the Rocky Mountains), of still more gigantic proportions; (4) the Atlanto-Saurus immanis, a femur of which alone is over six feet in length, and which would be thus over one hundred feet in length! But even yet the line has not been reached, and we hear of the discovery of remains of such titanic proportions as to possess a thigh-bone over twelve feet in length (p. 37). Then we read of the monstrous Sivatherium in the Himalayas, the four-horned stag, as large as an elephant, and exceeding the latter in height; of the gigantic Megatherium: of colossal flying lizards, Pterodactyli, with


crocodile jaws on a duck's head, etc., etc. All these were co-existent with man, most probably attacked man, as man attacked them; and we are asked to believe that the said man was no larger then than he is now! Is it possible to conceive that, surrounded in Nature with such monstrous creatures, man, unless himself a colossal giant, could have survived, while all his foes have perished? Is it with his stone hatchet that he had the best of a Sivatherium or a gigantic flying saurian? Let us always bear in mind that at least one great man of science, de Quatrefages, sees no good scientific reasons why man should not have been "contemporaneous with the earliest mammalia and go back as far as the Secondary Period."

"It appears," writes the very conservative Professor Jukes, "that the flying dragons of romance had something like a real existence in former ages of the world."** "Does the written history of man," the author goes on to ask, "comprising a few thousand years, embrace the whole course of his intelligent existence? Or have we in the long mythical eras, extending over hundreds of thousands of years, and recorded in the chronologies of Chaldea and China, shadowy mementoes of prehistoric man, handed down by tradition, and perhaps transported by a few survivors to existing lands, from others which, like the fabled Atlantis of Plato, may have been submerged, or the scene of some great catastrophe which destroyed them with all their civilization;".

The few remaining giant animals, such as elephants, themselves smaller than their ancestors the Mastodons, and Hippopotami, are the only surviving relics, and tend to disappear more entirely with every day. Even they have already had a few pioneers of their future genus, and have decreased in size in the same proportion as men did. For the remains of a pigmy elephant were found (E. Falconeri) in the cave deposits of Malta; and the same author asserts that they were associated with the remains of pigmy Hippopotami, the former being "only two feet six inches high; or the still-existing Hippopotamus (Choeropsis) Liberiensis, which M. Milne-Edwards figures as little more than two feet in height."

Sceptics may smile and denounce our work as full of nonsense or fairy-tales. But by so doing they only justify the wisdom of the Chinese philosopher Chuang, who said that "the things that men do know can in no way be compared, numerically speaking, to the things that are unknown" and thus they laugh only at their own ignorance.


Featured Website: Dinosaurs and Dragons by Strange Science

Despised in the West and revered in the East, dragons have a long history in human mythology. How did the myth start? No one knows the exact answer, but some "dragon" bones probably belonged to animals long extinct — in some cases dinosaurs, in others, fossil mammals. Starting in the early 19th century, scientists began to find a new kind of monster, one that had gone extinct tens of millions of years before the first humans evolved. Because the first fragments found looked lizard-like, paleontologists assumed they had found giant lizards, but more bones revealed animals like nothing on earth today. Did these terrible lizards ever coexist with people? No. Although some creationists claim that medieval dragons were really dinosaurs that survived into modern times, this notion enjoys no support from any credible scientist.

True20 Prehistoric Bestiary

Monday, June 8, 2009


Type: 12 Level Animal

Size: Huge

Speed: 50 ft.

Abilities: Str +5, Dex +3, Con +3, Int -4, Wis

+2, Cha +0

Skills: Notice 15 (+19)

Feats: Attack Focus (bite), Double Strike,

Improved Grab, Night VisionB, Run, Tough (x1)

Traits: Scent, Snatch, Swallow Whole

Combat: Attack +10 (-2 size, +9 base, +3 Dex)

(+11 bite), Damage +11 (bite), or +8 (claws),

Defense Dodge/Parry +10/-- (-2 size, +9 base, +3

Dex), Initiative +3

Saving Throws: Toughness +10 (+4 size, +3

Con, +2 natural +1 Tough), Fortitude +11 (+8

base, +3 Con), Reflex +11 (+8 base, +3 Dex), Will

+6 (+4 base, +2 Wis)

Skills: An afrovenator has a +2 racial bonus on

Notice checks.

Snatch: An afrovenator can use its Snatch ability

with its claws, targetting creatures up to two sizes

smaller than itself.

Swallow Whole: Creatures up to two sizes

smaller; +8 bludgeoning damage and +3 acid damage per round; gizzard Toughness save +9; an afrovenator’s gizzard can hold 2 Medium, 8 Small, 32 Tiny, or 128 Diminutive or smaller opponents. An afrovenator is a large predator with especially fearsome front claws that it uses to capture its prey. These creatures travel in family groups and chase down any likely-looking prey with their swift pace. More lightly built than other large predatory dinosaurs, afrovenators are speedy and always hungry.

Dinosaurs come in many sizes and shapes. The species detailed and illustrated below are only samples; use your imagination to vary their appearance. Add spikes or sails or frills, colours, feathers and crests as you see fit. Every week newer, more fantastic creatures are being discovered in OUR mundane world, so the possibilities in a fantasy world ought to be even more incredible and spectacular.

These creatures are awe-inspiring in their size and their strangeness. Many travel in immense herds, calling out to each other in rumbling voices that carry for miles. They push over trees and churn the ground to mud wherever they go. The predators are usually speedy and powerful, and hunt in groups. Characters who are discovered by these sharp-toothed animals should be made aware that these are the most terrible hunters ever to walk the land.

Science has little to say on the subject of domesticating these animals, so we've made a bunch of stuff up. If you think that's unreasonable, you probably shouldn't play games about people fighting dinosaurs in the first place.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Dinosaur Comics is a constrained webcomic by Canadian writer Ryan North. It is also known as "Qwantz", after the site's domain name, "qwantz.com". It has been online since February 1, 2003, though there were early prototypes. Dinosaur Comics has also been printed in two collections and in a number of newspapers.

Comics are posted on most weekdays. Each comic uses the same artwork, with only the dialogue changing from day to day. There are occasional deviations from this, such as several episodic comics. It has been compared to David Lynch's The Angriest Dog in the World comic, and also made references to it. The strips take on a wide variety of topics, including ethical relativism, the nature of happiness, and the secret to being loved.

Main cast

The main characters' names are each dinosaur's genus (with the notable exception being "T-Rex", an abbreviation of the Tyrannosaurus' full binomial name). Although other dinosaurs have been mentioned in the strip, they are rarely shown.

* T-Rex is the main character. He is a green, 27-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex. His character is portrayed as self-confident, but frequently shown up by other characters, especially Utahraptor. He is good-hearted, but occasionally shows signs of being egotistical or selfish. T-Rex appears to be stomping a log cabin and a woman in the third and fourth panels of the comic, respectively.
* Utahraptor, T-Rex's comedic foil, appears in the fourth and fifth panels of the comic. One early comic says one of his identifying features is that he "frequently debunk[s] [T-Rex's] theories." Utahraptor is gay, as North confirmed in the title of the RSS feed for the December 13, 2007 comic:

“ i received several dozen emails about utahraptor either being a girl or being gay in yesterday's comic! he is gay, guys. only he doesn't talk about it all the time, on account of having interests outside of being gay? ”

* Dromiceiomimus appears in the third panel. She is generally friendly to T-Rex, answering either neutrally or with mild, friendly criticism. She has been a romantic interest of T-Rex's.

Supporting cast

* Several comics take place in a mirror universe. In this arc, the standard comic has been flipped horizontally, as if seen in a mirror. All of the dinosaurs, in addition to being literal mirror images, sport drawn-on goatees to demonstrate that they are the mirror-universe counterparts of the normal characters.
* God and the Devil make frequent appearances in the strip, speaking from off the tops and bottoms of the panels respectively, in bold and capitalized letters and with the Devil's font in red. They also speak with little or no punctuation and can be heard only by T-Rex. Topics of conversation between T-Rex and God vary, but the Devil and T-Rex mostly discuss video games and Dungeons & Dragons.
* T-Rex's neighbors: families of raccoons and cephalopods who talk to T-Rex in unsettling tones, with capitalized italics.
* Morris: a tiny bug, lacking in self-confidence, who mostly appears on T-Rex's nose and speaks in lowercase letters.
* A fictionalized version of 19th-century poet Edgar Allan Poe first appears offscreen, supposedly relaxing on T-Rex's couch, and later as a needy, annoying friend of T-Rex's, following T-Rex around and only wanting to talk about their relationship with one another.
* A fictionalized version of actor Patrick Stewart appears in several comics.
* A fictionalized version of William Shakespeare appears in an intermittent series called "Literary Technique Comics."
* Mr. Tusks: an elephant affected by island dwarfism. He speaks only in the sixth frame and makes puns on the word "short" and its variants every time he speaks. He is the Vice-Mayor of a fictional place known in the comic as Tiny Towne.

Giant trilobites had complex social lives

Friday, May 8, 2009

The trilobites grouped together to molt, much like modern-day horseshoe crabs (Geological Society of America)

By Heather Catchpole for ABC Science Online

The discovery of giant trilobites in northern Portugal reveals the once ubiquitous marine creature mated en masse and used its numbers for protection, say European researchers.

The new find, published in the current issue of the journal Geology describes giants that grew to 90 centimetres in length, the largest ever found.

Trilobites once roamed the sea floor, but were wiped out in the Permian-Triassic extinction, 250 million years ago.

These marine arthropods, typically less than 8 centimetres long, are distant relatives of modern-day lobsters and spiders.

The researchers, led by Dr Juan Carlos Gutiérrez-Marco from the El Instituto de Geología Económica in Madrid, Spain, discovered trilobites from 15 genera in 465-million year old rocks in Arouca Geopark in northern Portugal.

They found a complete specimen 70 centimetres in length and others whose tail remnants indicated they grew to up to 90 centimetres long.

Most of the trilobite species they collected have been found elsewhere in Western Europe, but never before of such giant size.

Their size was probably an adaption to the polar waters where they dwelt, say the researchers.

"Metabolism of invertebrates is slower in cold water, so it takes longer to reach adulthood and they also tend to live longer. Also if you are bigger you are better able to deter a predator attack," sasy co-author Dr Diego García-Bellido, also of the El Instituto de Geología Económica.

Molt together, mate together

The researchers found clusters of trilobites with up to 1000 individuals, indicating they grouped together to molt, much like modern-day horseshoe crabs.

The researchers assume that like horseshoe crabs, the trilobites may have also mated en masse. The hormones that instigate molting are related to those that induce sexual reproduction, says García-Bellido.

Several trilobites in the deposit were also found in burrows and under the shells of larger organisms, where they may have hidden after molting as their soft bodies made them more vulnerable to predators.

The trilobites are believed to have died when the stagnant seawater became oxygen-depleted, which also helped their preservation as fossils, the researchers say.

Spectacular find

Palaeontologist Dr John Paterson from the University of New England in Armidale, describes the find as "spectacular".

"It's really exceptional in that you rarely find trilobite fossils complete," he says. "Mostly you find a piece of the head or the tail, so to find them in congregations where there are many complete individuals is astounding."

Paterson says his own research in the Flinders Ranges in South Australia has shown that trilobites grouped together during the Cambrian era about 520 million years ago, when the diversity of life really kicked off.

"You've got a better chance of survival if you are [molting] in a group as you've got less chance of being picked off yourself.

Back Lots of the Lost: The Implausibility of the Cliched "Lost World"

Monday, May 4, 2009

Paul T. Riddell

Since the Victorian period, shortly after the discovery and scientific description of the first recognized examples of the class Dinosauria, individuals have speculated on the possibilities of areas where dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures may still exist. Back before aerial surveys and satellite photographs, the idea of lost continents brimming with tyrannosaurs and pterosaurs fevered the imaginations of fiction writers and readers. After serious exploration efforts turned up no signs of previously unknown saurians, speculation turned toward parallel evolution of dinosaurs on alien worlds, or in isolated patches of jungle unknown to humans. The "lost world" cliché soon became almost universal, demanding a Frank Frazetta canvas: mention "lost world" to nearly anyone and ask for the first images that pop up, and invariably the first response concerns cavemen (and rather shapely cavewomen) watching as a Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops duke it out in a landscape shadowed by giant volcanoes and fern trees.

The perception is popular, and certain lost worlds exist today. However, the prediluvian world of the Galapagos rift vents, with animals and bacteria probably related to the first organisms that left the confines of the vents and struck out for the wide, cold ocean just don't have the same appeal. If we don't get dinosaurs, then at least we need prehistoric mammals (usually saber-toothed cats and mammoths, although titanotheres and creodonts have their possibilities), or maybe some of the reptiles that predated the dinosaurs. They're not as impressive as T. rex, but being chased by a Lycaenops or a Dimetrodon still offers adventure and suspense. For those seeking the less familiar, the creatures of the mid-Devonian are passable, between giant four-meter-long sea scorpions and early amphibians on land and gigantic predatory fish like Dunklosteus in the oceans, and then there's always the singular (if diminutive) animals of the early Cambrian as preserved in the Burgess Shale.


The History of Dinosaur Comics

A genuine dinosaur comic is a rare thing. A true dinosaur comic is something unique, unblemished by human characters.
So writes comic book artist Steve Bissette in his history of dinosaurs in comic books. The essay appeared in the graphic novel bringing together the first six issues of Paleo: Tales of the Late Cretaceous, but it also was published in nine pieces over at Palaeoblog along with pictures from the comics mentioned in the essay.

It is worth reading if you are a fan of comic books or dinosaurs in general.

Coelophysis bauri

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Artist: Gary Staab
Medium: Acrylic on Masonite
Dimensions: 16-1/2" W x 10-3/4" H

Jurassic Jungle

Monday, March 30, 2009

Jurassic Jungle is a Massively Multi player Online Role Playing game where YOU are in control of your destiny. The unique world of Jurassic Jungle is ever-changing Rise to the top of your foes with PVP. Defend your Excavation from raiders, devote your career to a life of strength and power, or join in the ranks of the few that balance the economy of the universe YOU decide.

Dinosaur Summer by Greg Bear (1998)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Hardback cover blurb

It’s the year 1947, and nobody’s interested in dinosaurs anymore. Less than fifty years after Professor Challenger’s famed journey to the Lost World, America’s last dinosaur circus is closing down… but the adventure of a lifetime is about to begin. In a dramatic change of pace, multiple Hugo and Nebula award-winning science fiction master Greg Bear, author of Moving Mars, Anvil of Stars and Queen of Angels, presents a lavishly illustrated thriller that is certain to become a new classic of adventure beyond time…


Peter Belzoni is dreading summer in Manhattan. Then his father, photojournalist Anthony Belzoni, offers the youth a job, and a byline in National Geographic… and a trip to South America. For Lothar Gluck Circus, once the world’s foremost dinosaur attraction, has gone bankrupt. Left behind is a menagerie of avisaurs, centrosaurs, and ankylosaurs, as well as one predatory raptor named Dagger. And now two filmmakers and the circus trainer plan to return the giants to the wild – with Peter and his dad chronicling the odyssey for Geographic. The task seems impossible. Many have died trying to bring beasts out of the Lost World, the plateau of El Grande in Venezuela, but nobody has ever attempted to transport nearly a dozen full-grown, multi-ton prehistoric creatures across continents, down rivers, through jungles, and up a mountain that has been isolated for 70,000,000 years…

The trek will strain the technologies of trains, cargo ships, barges, trucks… en route lurk robbers and hostile, trigger-happy soldiers… and each miles toward freedom excites Dagger toward an unstoppable, primal killing frenzy. When the unthinkable threatens to strand Peter and the rest of the crew in an uncharted realm, four modern Americans will face all the unknown dangers, mysteries, and terrors of El Grande…

My thoughts

Peter Belzoni gets to live out every boy’s dream: He will accompany his father on an adventure to a remote plateau in Venezuela where dinosaurs still roam. It’s a hell of a way to spend summer break.

It turns out that the Lost World discovered by one Professor Challenger is real. But in the 30 or so years since the discovery, things haven’t gone well. The Lost World was exploited for profit, and many of its animals were captured for zoos and circuses. While the public was at first captivated by the live dinosaurs, it soon lost interest as the fad came and went. King Kong, shot with real dinosaurs, was a box-office flop, and the last dinosaur circus is closing down. The owner of the circus, Lothar Gluck, wants to return his dinosaurs to the Lost World, now a protected sanctuary. Peter and his father will accompany the expedition, but after a bad turn of events, they’ll find themselves stranded in the Lost World, where things far more deadly than dinosaurs roam.

Dinosaur Summer is an unofficial sequel to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World from Greg Bear, a writer better known for hard sci-fi. It’s a fun read that’s really meant for younger audiences. The illustrations by Tony DiTerlizzi, while excellent, reinforce that fact. The book is a tribute to the filmmakers that Bear grew up with – stop-motion pioneers Ray Harryhousen and Willis O’Brien, and King Kong creators Merian Cooper and Ernest Schoedsack. In fact, all four have major roles in the novel.

A couple critics have complained that Dinosaur Summer was Bear’s overt attempt to write a novel that would be turned into a movie. And yes, it’s true the book was published while Jurassic Park was still all the rage (although, contrary to the cover blurb, the book doesn’t feature a “raptor,” but rather an allosaurus descendant referred to as a “venator”). I think this novel was a labor of love for Bear, an attempt by the author to recapture part of his childhood. It’s light, breezy entertainment and should be accepted as such.

  • Unlike in Doyle’s original novel, there are no ape men or Ice Age mammals roaming Bear’s lost world. However, there are several new creatures not known in the fossil record. Bear imagines a lost world where evolution doesn't stand still, so while there are dinosaurs that have changed very little in 65 million years, there are also animals that have evolved no where else, most noticeably the book’s villain, the Stratoraptor,
  • The illustrator, Tony DiTerlizzi, is a well-known children's book illustrator. His web site includes several examples of his work, but nothing from Dinosaur Summer, unfortunately..
  • Dinosaur Summer won the first Endeavor Award, a science fiction award for writers from the Pacific Northwest.

Bones of the Earth by Michael Swanwick (2002)

Hardback cover blurb

Paleontologist Richard Leyster has achieved professional nirvana: a position with the Smithsonian Museum plus a groundbreaking dinosaur fossil site he can research, publish on, and learn from for years to come. There is nothing that could lure him away – until a disturbingly secretive stranger named Griffin enters Leyster's office with an ice cooler and a job offer. In the cooler is the head of a freshly killed Stegosaurus.

Griffin has been entrusted with an extraordinary gift, an impossible technology on loan to humanity from unknown beings for an undisclosed purpose. Time travel has become a reality millions of years before it rationally could be. With it, Richard Leyster and his colleagues can make their most cherished fantasy come true. They can study the dinosaurs up close, in their own time and milieu.

Now, suddenly, individual lives can turn back on themselves. People can meet, shake hands, and converse with their younger versions at various crossroads in time. One wrong word, a single misguided act, could be disastrous to the project and to the world. But Griffin must make sure everything that is supposed to happen does happen – no matter who is destined to be hurt... or die.

And then there's Dr. Gertrude Salley – passionate, fearless, and brutally ambitious – a genius rebel in the tight community of "bone men" and women. Alternately both Leyster's and Griffin's chief rival, trusted colleague, despised nemesis, and inscrutable lover at various junctures throughout time, Salley is relentlessly driven to screw with the working mechanisms of natural law, audaciously trespassing in forbidden areas, pushing paradox to the edge no matter what the consequences may be. And, when they concern the largest, most savage creatures that ever lived, the consequences may be terrifying indeed.

My thoughts

Few dinosaur novels came out with as much promotion as Bones of the Earth received when it was released in 2002 (the Jurassic Park novels being an obvious exception). Michael Swanwick already had won the Hugo award in 2000 for his short story, “Scherzo with Tyrannosaur,” which was something of early incarnation of “Bones of the Earth.” The publisher, Eos (a division of HarperCollins), heavily advertised the book though its web site, even allowing web users to e-mail a series of dinosaur-themed short stories to friends and family.

Bones of the Earth lived up to the hype. It’s easily one of the best dinosaur novels ever written. The story focuses on three protagonists: paleontologist Richard Leyster; his occasional lover Gertrude Salley, a woman who doesn’t like playing by the rules; and Griffin, Gertrude’s occasional lover and the man in charge of enforcing the rules. A mysterious race of beings has given humanity the gift of time travel, but there are complications. It turns out changing the past isn't so hard. Griffin’s job is to ensure that history stays history or the gift will be taken away. That’s not so easy, especially when creationist terrorists are determined to prove themselves right at all costs, and when Gertrude has plans of her own.

To give away more would be spoiling the fun of the novel. Bones of the Earth takes a little time to get going. It’s not until about halfway through the book that a story starts to materialize. But it’s a wonderful story, filled with believable characters and intriguing speculation about dinosaur ecology. The prose is a little lazy – sometimes the book reads more like a movie script than a novel. Yet that’s the only shortcoming I can come up with about this excellent work.

  • The cover art for "Scherzo with Tyrannosaur" (Asimov's Science Fiction, 1999) features the author with his wife.

Raptor Red by Robert T. Bakker (1995)

Hardback cover blurb

A pair of fierce but beautiful eyes looks out from the dull green undergrowth. The eyes follow every movement in the great herd of plant-eating dinosaurs that mills around the open meadows, moving back and forth with the rapid scanning of a hunter who is thinking about everything she sees. She is an intelligent killer…

So begins one of the most extraordinary novels you will ever read. The time is 120 million years ago, the place is the plains of prehistoric Utah, and the eyes belong to one of the most unforgettable heroines you will ever meet. Her name is Raptor Red, and she is a female Utahraptor dinosaur.

Raptor Red’s tale begins with tragedy. She and her mate are stalking prey, a giant astrodon feeding in a nearby meadow. They approach silently and attack with deadly force. But at the moment of triumph, something goes terribly wrong and Raptor Red’s mate is killed. It is the beginning of a yearlong odyssey of survival, a thrilling story told by leading paleontologist Robert T. Bakker. Now, in Raptor Red, he dramatizes his revolutionary theories in a one-of-a-kind tale.

Raptor Red strikes out on her own, and before long she has rejoined her sister’s clan. Together they will hunt and devour iguanodons, brave a monstrous storm and the ensuing flash flood, migrate toward the western ocean to escape powerful predators, and eventually move north to a snowy mountain region in a desperate attempt to escape the threat of the deadly acrocanthosaurs.

At the same time, Raptor Red must obey nature’s command to find a new mate. But when a bold and graceful young male presents himself, she is stymied by her conflicting loyalties to her sister’s brood and her own powerful impulses to mate and produce chicks of her own. On a snowy mountaintop in the frozen north, Raptor Red’s search for a new home and a new mate will culminate in a thrilling climax.

Painting a rich and colorful picture of her lush, exotic prehistoric world, the novel is convincingly told from within Raptor Red’s mind, revealing the powerful instincts and Darwinian forces that shape her remarkable consciousness. Her story is filled with a unique cast of characters that includes a white pterodactyl, a giant prehistoric crocodile, a small furry aegialodon, hulking astrodons, and an incredible range of other exotic creatures.

Raptor Red is a completely unique and utterly compelling story of a year in the life of a dinosaur – and is sure to be one of the most talked-about books of the year.

My thoughts

The above cover blurb pretty much gives away the entire plot of the book, so there really isn’t any need to summarize it again. Raptor Red is told from the point of view of a female Utahraptor as she struggles to survive in her early Cretaceous world. Bakker, a famous paleontologist, is aiming for realism so this isn’t Watership Down with talking dinosaurs instead of rabbits. His animals behave more or less like the real thing, although Raptor Red herself comes across as a bit too smart and emotional at times.

One result of Bakker’s approach is that Raptor Red’s story is pretty simple as far as novels go. There are no plot twists or any attempts at grand themes. It’s simply a tale about an animal living in her environment. The exotic nature of the setting keeps the novel from becoming trite after the first few chapters, and Bakker’s quirky sense of humor comes across in several passages.

More than anything, Raptor Red serves as a vehicle for Bakker to give science lessons in a user-friendly format. The paleontologist is well-known for championing the idea of active, warm-blooded dinosaurs. It probably should come as no surprise then that the very first illustration in the novel features Raptor Red on a snowy mountainside, a place you wouldn’t find cold-blooded reptiles. Many of Bakker’s more radical theories are far from universally accepted, but other than in a few places, he doesn’t really delve into them.

Chances are you will still find Raptor Red in the science fiction section of your local bookstore, the paperback sporting a holographic cover. The book has had a remarkable shelf life for a work of paleofiction. It’s worth picking up a copy if you’re a fan of dinosaurs.


  • There seemed to be a time, not long ago, when every TV dinosaur documentary had to feature at least one interview with Bakker. He is instantly recognizable with his beat-up cowboy hat and his long hair and beard. He also served as the inspiration for the character of Dr. Robert Burke in the movie The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Burke meets a rather nasty end in the jaws of a T. rex in the film.
  • The Utahraptor was co-discovered by paleontologist James Kirkland, who has also authored a work of dinosaur fiction. He co-wrote the Star Trek novel First Frontier with Diane Carey.

Return to Eden by Harry Harrison (1988)

Note: This is the final book of the West of Eden trilogy, starting with West of Eden. Spoilers ahead if you haven’t read the first book, reviewed below.

Paperback cover blurb

In West of Eden and Winter in Eden, master novelist Harry Harrison broke new ground with his most ambitious project to date. He brought to vivid life the world as it might have been, where dinosaurs survived, where their intelligent descendants, the Yilane, challenged humans for mastery of the Earth, and where the human Kerrick, a young hunter of the Tanu tribe, grew among the dinosaurs and rose to become their most feared enemy. Working in collaboration with an international team of scientific experts, Harrison created a believable, richly detailed world rivaling Frank Herbert’s Dune and Jean Auels’s The Clan of the Cave Bear in the majesty of its scope and conception.

Now, in Return to Eden, Harrison brings the epic trilogy to a stunning conclusion. After Kerrick rescues his people from the warlike Yilane, they find a safe haven on an island and there begin to rebuild their shattered lives. But with fierce predators stalking the forests, how long can these unarmed human outcasts hope to survive? The small band of humans have no choice but to confront their fate head on. And, of course, Kerrick cannot forget Viante, his implacable Yilane enemy. She’s been cast out from her kind, under sentence of death, but how long will her banishment last? For her strange attraction to Kerrick has turned into a hatred even more powerful than her instincts – an obsession that compels her to hunt down Kerrick and kill him.

My thoughts

Return to Eden is the “threequel” that can be easily skipped without any worries that you have left the story arc started in West of Eden incomplete. Most of the plot threads are resolved in the second book of the series, Winter in Eden. The result is the characters in Return to Eden have nothing to do, and the book lacks any real plot, instead reading like a grossly bloated epilogue of the first two novels. Kerrick, having made the world safe for humanity, now focuses on raising his family and finding a home for his tribe. The Daughters of Life slowly build their peaceful society in the Amazon. And Viante, now an outcast, plots her revenge. These separate storylines are drawn out over a tedious 400 pages, coming together in the end in a whopping anticlimax.

By now the alternate world of the Yilane has lost its charm, and the lack of any real story makes this book a difficult one to read through to the end. The science, which was dated when West of Eden was first published six years previously, was even more dated when Return to Eden hit bookstores. And Harrison seems to have lost interest in the setting he created. The novel feels like it was written mainly to fulfill a contractual obligation to the publisher to turn out a trilogy. Unless you have a burning desire to learn about the ultimate fates of many of the characters to the first two books, there is no reason to pick up Return to Eden.


  • The entire trilogy was recently republished, although I’ve never had any trouble finding the original books in used bookstores.
Return in Eden has a short Wikipedia entry.

Winter in Eden by Harry Harrison (1986)

Note: This is the second book of the West of Eden trilogy, starting with West of Eden. Spoilers ahead if you haven’t read the first book, reviewed below.

Paperback cover blurb



Harry Harrison, an acknowledged master of imaginative fiction, broke new ground in West of Eden. He brought to vivid life the world as it might have been, where dinosaurs survived, where their intelligent descendants challenged humans for mastery of Earth, where a young hunter named Kerrick grew among the dinosaurs and rose to become their most feared enemy.

Now, the awesome saga continues in Winter in Eden… A new ice age threatens Earth. Facing extinction, the dinosaurs must employ their mastery of biology to swiftly reconquer human territory. Desperately, Kerrick launches an arduous quest to rally a final defense for humankind. With his beloved wife and young son, he heads north to the land of whale hunters, east into the enemy’s stronghold, and south to a fateful reckoning with destiny.

Not since Dune has there been a work of such majestic scope and conception – a monumental epic of passion, courage and triumph.

My thoughts

Winter in Eden starts almost immediately after the events of the first book, with the humans celebrating their victory in driving the Yilane from their shores. Kerrick, however, is troubled with the knowledge that it will be a short-lived celebration. The Yilane will return in full force, and despite their initial success, the Stone Age humans still are no match for the technologically superior reptiles. So Kerrick takes off on a journey to the Yialne homeland, hoping to find some way of single-handedly turning back their invasion.

Meanwhile, the Yilane Vinate is plotting her revenge against Kerrick, and hopes to lead the invasion force that will reclaim the lost territories. And while all this is happening, a group of peace-loving Yilane flee to the Amazon basin, where they seek to found a society radically different from that of the rest of their xenophobic species. Once there, they make a surprising discovery.

Winter in Eden is an entertaining sequel that nonetheless suffers from some of the “been there, done that” syndrome that plagues most sequels. This time, however, the story lets the reader to explore a larger portion of the world Harrison created, allowing the exotic setting to remain fresh. The story itself isn’t as well-paced as the one in the first book, so even though Winter in Eden is 100 pages shorter, it feels like a longer read. And the author had to once again rely on a dues ex machina ending to resolve the desperate situation he put his humans in. Many of the problems with the science in the first book remain in the sequel, although Harrison does introduce some interesting twists in evolution this time around.

Nitpicking aside, Winter in Eden remains a worthy follow-up to West of Eden. Most of the plot threads started in the first book are resolved in the sequel, so even if you never read the third book in the trilogy, you won’t be left feeling the story is incomplete.


  • The entire trilogy was recently republished, although I’ve never had any trouble finding the original books in used bookstores.
Winter in Eden has a short Wikipedia entry.