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Grave Secrets of Dinosaurs: Soft Tissues and…

Grave Secrets of Dinosaurs: Soft Tissues and Hard Science

by Phillip Manning

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Wait… It was while still reading the introduction that I began to have doubts about this book – was it to be the Dinosaur as Hero or the young teenager fossil hunter? Had I bought, by mistake, a book written for the young reader? Was Dr Manning talking down to me – and given the height of his various University Chairs and multiple degrees how could he not?

I persevered through the opening chapters, but it was a struggle as I could not quite hear the author's “voice" and found that I misunderstood – or totally missed – what he was saying. I decided the book would not be read at one sitting, as so many of my favorites were, and put it up on the ‘dip into’ shelf in the smallest reading room in the house (the one with running water).

I will finish it, and I will then have learned far more about Dinosaurs, Hadrosaurs and paleontology but not – as other reviewers warn – about the conclusions on this particular find.

I recommend, as others have, that you wait for the sequel as it might contain the results of the painstaking research Dr Manning and his team dedicate to ‘Dakota’ and his story.
  John_Vaughan | May 20, 2011 |
Otherwise interesting books can be disappointing if they're written too soon. This is one of them. Dakota, a hadrosaur mummy unearthed in the Hell Creek Badlands in 2004-2005, is a remarkable find: a dinosaur still wrapped in a pebbled blanket of skin after 65+ million years.

Manning gives a great amount of background information on long term preservation, both the soft tissue mummy type and the more familiar mineralized fossil sort. And he shares his understandable excitement regarding the dinosaur remains that appear to yield more than just stone bones.

Manning takes us into the field during the excavation, plastering, and transport of the huge dinosaur. He also covers the tests done by CT scanners and electron microscopes. The science presented is fascinating. The preliminary results (showing that original biomolecules survived millions of years!) are tantalizing.

But that's what prompted my disappointment. They were preliminary results. More scans and more tests were needed. In fact, Manning ends his book before the team determined whether Dakota was male or female -- an expectation remarkable in itself. The studies aren't finished. Most of the science is undone, conclusions unknown. The book was published prematurely.

The dinosaur mummy awaits more scans and more tests, but what is a reader to do at the end of the book? The book ended too soon and preliminary results leave you hungry. It's as if Miss Marple had assembled the suspects in a room following a fascinating murder investigation only to have the last few pages torn away.

Find more of my reviews at Mostly NF.
  benjfrank | Nov 26, 2009 |
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Dinosaur bones and skeletons, even dinosaur eggs are not unusual, but rare soft-tissue fossils give tantalizing clues about the appearance and physiology of the ancient animals. Here, paleontologist Manning presents the most astonishing dinosaur fossil excavations of the past 100 years--including the recent discovery of a remarkably intact dinosaur mummy in the Badlands of North Dakota. Bone structure is just the beginning of our knowledge today, thanks to amazing digs like these. Drawing on new breakthroughs and cutting-edge techniques of analysis, Dr. Manning takes us on a globe-spanning tour of dinosaur mummy finds--from the first such excavation in 1908 to a baby dinosaur unearthed in 1980, from a dino with a heart in South Dakota to titanosaur embryos in Argentina. Using state-of-the-art technology to scan and analyze these discoveries, scientists can create incredibly lifelike portraits.--From publisher description.… (more)

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