Today, any kid can rattle off the names of dozens of dinosaurs. But it took centuries of scientific effort – and a lot of luck – to discover and establish the diversity of dinosaur species we now know. How did we learn that Triceratops had three horns? Why don't many palaeontologists consider Brontosaurus a valid species? What convinced scientists that modern birds are relatives of ancient Velociraptor?
In The Story of the Dinosaurs in 25 Discoveries, Donald R. Prothero tells the fascinating stories behind the most important fossil finds and the intrepid researchers who unearthed them. In twenty-five vivid vignettes, he weaves together the dramatic tales of dinosaur discoveries with what modern science now knows about the species to which they belong. Prothero takes us from eighteenth-century sightings of colossal bones taken for biblical giants through recent discoveries of enormous predators even larger than Tyrannosaurus. He recounts the escapades of the larger-than-life personalities who made modern palaeontology, including scientific rivalries like the nineteenth-century "Bone Wars". Prothero also details how to draw the boundaries between species and explores debates such as whether dinosaurs had feathers, explaining the findings that settled them or keeps them going.
Throughout, he offers a clear and rigorous look at what palaeontologists consider sound interpretation of evidence. An essential read for any dinosaur lover, The Story of Life in 25 Fossils teaches us to see an ancient world ruled by giant majestic creatures anew.
Part I. In the Beginning
1. Megalosaurus: The “Great Lizard,” the “Scrotum Humanum”, and the First Named Dinosaur
2. Iguanodon: Gideon Mantell, Louis Dollo, and the First Dinosaur Fauna
3. Cetiosaurus: The “Whale Lizard,” Richard Owen, and the First Known Sauropod
4. Hadrosaurus: Joseph Leidy and the First American Dinosaur
5. Eoraptor: The First Dinosaurs
Part II. The Long-Necked Giants
6. Plateosaurus: Ancestors of the Giants
7. Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus: Marsh, Cope, and the Bone Wars
8. Diplodocus: The Real “Jurassic Park” and Carnegie’s Gift
9. Giraffatitan: The Tallest of the Tall, and the Tendaguru
10. Patagotitan: Who’s the Biggest of Them All?
Part III. Red in Tooth and Claw: The Theropods
11. Coelophysis: The Little Dinosaur of Ghost Ranch
12. Cryolophosaurus: Denizen of the Polar Darkness
13. Spinosaurus: Lost Giants of Egypt
14. Tyrannosaurus: King of the Tyrant Reptiles
15. Giganotosaurus: Biggest Predator of All?
16. Deinocheirus: “Terrible Hands” Lead to Big Surprises
17. Velociraptor: “Terrible Claws” and the Dinosaur Renaissance
18. Sinosauropteryx: Feathered Dinosaurs and the Origin of Birds
Part IV. Horns and Spikes and Armor and Duck Beaks: The Ornithischians
19. Heterodontosaurus: The Origin of Ornithischians
20. Stegosaurus: The “Roofed Lizard” and the Thagomizer
21. Ankylosaurus: Armored Dinosaurs and “Mr. Bones”
22. Corythosaurus: Duckbills with Headgear
23. Stegoceras: The “Unicorn Dinosaur” and the Boneheads
24. Protoceratops: The Griffin Legend and the Origin of Horned Dinosaurs
25. Triceratops: The “Dinosaurian Bison” and the Last of the Dinosaurs
Donald R. Prothero is a paleontology and geology researcher, teacher, and author. He is adjunct professor of geological sciences at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and research associate in vertebrate palaeontology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. His Columbia University Press books include The Story of Life in 25 Fossils: Tales of Intrepid Fossil Hunters and the Wonders of Evolution (2015) and The Story of the Earth in 25 Rocks: Tales of Important Geological Puzzles and the People Who Solved Them (2018).
"One of the 10 best nonfiction books to read in science."
– New Scientist
"Solid proof that dinosaurs through scientific eyes are no less fascinating than they are in the movies."
– Kirkus Reviews
"[Prothero] delivers another winning popular science book [...] dinosaur buffs will be delighted, fascinated, and entertained."
– Publishers Weekly
"Excellent summer reading!"
– Greg Laden Blog
"Another entertaining trip through the history of science, this time focusing on paleontology."
– Physics Today
"A grand tour of dinosaurs, from one of our most prolific natural history writers. I've been reading Donald Prothero's books since I began studying geology in college, and here he delivers again, with a romping chronicle of some of the most charismatic dinosaurs and the equally fascinating people who have studied them."
– Steve Brusatte, University of Edinburgh paleontologist and New York Times bestselling author of The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs
"This is a highly readable and compelling historical tour of our discovery of dinosaurs, and it focuses on many fascinating stories. It provides equal balance on both human history and the lives and adventures of the people behind the relevant dinosaurs, and scientific thinking on the dinosaurs themselves and adjacent areas of controversy."
– Darren Naish, author of Dinosaurs: How They Lived and Evolved
"This book is excellent. Rather than simply a profile of 25 dinosaurs, it puts each of these in context of its discovery and significance in terms of the science of paleontology, as well as comparisons with close relations. Thus, it covers hundreds of dinosaurs, not just twenty-five."
– Thomas R. Holtz, Jr., Vertebrate Paleontologist, Department of Geology, University of Maryland
"After a couple of pages, Donald Prothero had me hooked [...] like attending the best kind of dinner party, replete with entertaining stories."
– Brian Clegg, Popular Science
"There are many dinosaur books on the market but very few are written in such an engaging and informative manner – The Story of the Dinosaurs in 25 Discoveries by Donald R. Prothero tells the fascinating story of how our knowledge regarding the Dinosauria has evolved and changed over time – and what a superb read it is! We doff our hard hats to you sir, once again you have produced an extremely informative and enjoyable read."
– Everything Dinosaur
"This is a great book for folks interested in dinosaurs, from high schoolers through adult readers."
"From the desk of a seasoned and much celebrated California-based palaeontologist, this a story of imagination, rivalry, mistake and often not-so-quiet genius."
– New Scientist
"A highly accomplished synthesis of ideas and a keen up-to-date summary [...] I recommend the book for the shelf of any professional paleontologist interested in dinosaurs, and for many amateurs who want to take a deeper dive into the field."
– Quarterly Review of Biology