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Flying Dinosaurs: How Fearsome Reptiles Became Birds

Popular Science
Dinosaurs didn’t die out when an asteroid hit Earth 66 million years ago. Get ready to unthink what you thought you knew and journey into the deep, dark depths of the Jurassic.

By: John Pickrell(Author), Philip J Currie(Foreword By)

215 pages, 16 plates with colour photos and colour & b/w illustrations; b/w illustrations

Columbia University Press

Hardback | Sep 2014 | #212715 | ISBN-13: 9780231171786
Availability: In stock
NHBS Price: £24.95 $32/€28 approx

About this book

The discovery of the first feathered dinosaur in China in 1996 sent shockwaves through the world of palaeontology. Were the feathers part of a complex mating ritual? A stepping-stone in the evolution of flight? And just how closely related is T. Rex to a chicken? In Flying Dinosaurs award-winning journalist John Pickrell reveals how dinosaurs developed flight and became the birds in our backyards. He delves into the latest discoveries in China, the US, Europe and Australia and goes beyond the science to uncover a thriving black market in fossils, infighting between ego-driven dinosaur hunters, and the controversial plan to use a chicken to bring dinosaurs back from the dead.

"In Flying Dinosaurs John Pickrell challenges everything you were told about dinosaurs as a child [...] Through extensive research and interviews with leading paleontologists, Flying Dinosaurs charts how each new discovery confirmed the link between dinosaurs and birds [...] The author's fascination with dinosaurs is evident throughout the book. But his passion aside, it takes a skilled science writer to transform the incremental progress of a field such as paleontology into a narrative that sustains a book."
– Nicky Phillips, The Sydney Morning Herald

"After digesting all that Pickrell has to offer, it will be difficult for any reader to think about dinosaurs – or birds – in the same ways they had before."
Publishers Weekly

"[An] engaging book."
– GrrlScientist – a Guardian Blog

"A remarkable book, with a wealth of interviews with palaeontologists and a comprehensive catalogue of virtually all the findings of feathered dinosaurs since 1996. It's a useful catch-up if you have lost track of this rapidly developing area of palaentology, and full of fascinating, unusual facts – did you know that birds are the closest living relatives to the crocodile?"
– Bill Condie, Cosmos Magazine

"[Flying Dinosaurs] deftly covers the history behind the decades-old debate over just when and how birds first arose."
– Bruce Dorminey, Forbes

"Pickrell covers the history of changing thought on dinosaurs and the bird-dinosaur link [...] Pickrell's book is well written and accessible, and thus is an excellent companion."
– Greg Laden, Greg Laden's Blog

"A detailed and timely overview of our rapidly-improving scientific understanding of how massive, lumbering dinosaurs evolved into agile, flying birds."
– Mike Lee, The Conversation

"A readable introduction to the subject."
– Ian Paulsen, The Birdbooker Report

"Flying Dinosaurs recounts the stunning fossil discoveries, novel ideas, cutting-edge technologies, and scientific missteps that took place as scientists documented the dinosaur-bird link. In readable prose, with stunning illustrations and the necessary background material, this book recounts the cut-and-thrust of one of the most important paleontological advances of modern time."
– Spencer Lucas, chief curator, New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, and author of Dinosaurs: The Textbook

"Dinosaurs aren't dead. Birds are dinosaurs, an astounding fact brought to life by John Pickrell in his celebration of fossil discovery. From historic debates over how birds evolved from dinosaurian ancestors to how this ancient connection is enlightening our understanding of dinosaur lives, Pickrell adeptly shows readers the Velociraptor hiding inside a chicken." – Brian Switek, author of My Beloved Brontosaurus and Written in Stone

"A marvelous book. The moment life took to the air – caught in stone!" – Tim Flannery, environmentalist and paleontologist


Foreword, by Philip Currie
Introduction: A whole new world
Before we begin

1. The missing link
2. A feathered revolution begins
3. The dinosaur hunters
4. From dinosaur to bird
5. Fake fossils
6. The evolution of feathers
7. The struggle to the skies
8. Sex for T. rex
9. Colouring in the dinosaurs
10. Back from the dead
11. The survival game

Relationships of the theropod dinosaurs
An A–Z of feathered dinosaurs
Select bibliography

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John Pickrell is an award-winning science writer and the editor of Australian Geographic magazine. He has worked in London, Washington, D.C., and Sydney for numerous publications, including New Scientist, Science, Science News, and Cosmos. He has been a finalist for the Australian Museum’s Eureka Prizes three times, has won an Earth Journalism Award, and has been featured in the 2011 and 2014 editions of The Best Australian Science Writing.

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