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Geoscientist Online

The dinosaurs rediscovered: How a scientific revolution is rewriting history

Benton dinosaursThe Dinosaurs Rediscovered has one core message to convey, and does so very effectively: over the past 40 years science has pushed back speculation in dinosaur palaeontology. Or to put it another way, a field that used to be criticised by others as 'stamp collecting' has become dominated by researchers applying new techniques and rigorous methodologies to create evidence-based insights into prehistoric life.

Mike Benton will be known to many as not only a preeminent palaeontologist and a key faculty member behind Bristol University's world-class palaeobiology research group, but as a skilled science communicator. This book clearly demonstrates his skills in both areas.

Unlike some previous titles from well known palaeontologists, this is neither an updated retelling of the story of the dinosaurs or a book-length case for a reevaluation of a particular area of the field. Instead it is a compelling and concise primer on the current state of dinosaur science.

Broken into chapters that each tackle a 'big question', Benton's book builds a coherent narrative that tracks the evolution of dinosaur palaeobiology as a discipline from around 1980 to the present day. Those familiar with the field from undergraduate studies during that period will find a good mixture of familiar theories peppered with, or in places superseded by, cutting edge recent research.

From cladistic methods for creating new dinosaur family trees to engineering approaches to understanding feeding and locomotion, and from bone histology insights about growth and physiology to analyses that demonstrate dinosaur colour for the first time, Benton brings the day-to-day and year-to-year news from the field up to date.

For anyone wishing to delve deeper there are a good number, but not too overwhelming a number, of suggested sources for further reading. These range, as the book does, from seminal papers that altered the course of dinosaur studies decades ago to papers from the past few years that you are unlikely to have heard of if you are not an active researcher.

If you already have good knowledge of dinosaur research then this book may be too light on in-depth information for you, but the quality of the writing is such that you'll most likely be hooked enough to be swept along to the end in the same way as any other reader.

In short, an excellent book for anyone still fascinated by dinosaurs but not actively following developments, or indeed an excellent gift for anyone considering studying dinosaur palaeontology. 

THE DINOSAURS REDISCOVERED: HOW A SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTION IS REWRITING HISTORY by MICHAEL J. BENTON, 2019. Published by: Thames and Hudson 336pp (hbk) ISBN: 9780500052006 List Price: £24.95. W: https://thamesandhudson.com/