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How to Build a Dinosaur: Extinction Doesn't Have to Be Forever (original 2009; edition 2009)

by Jack Horner, James Gorman

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1591375,058 (3.61)18
Member:JeffV
Title:How to Build a Dinosaur: Extinction Doesn't Have to Be Forever
Authors:Jack Horner
Other authors:James Gorman
Info:Dutton Adult (2009), Hardcover, 256 pages
Collections:Your library, To read
Rating:***
Tags:Non-fiction, Science, Paleontology

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How to Build a Dinosaur: Extinction Doesn't Have to Be Forever by Jack Horner (2009)

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Not as good as hoped for. Horner does make the case for trying the proposed experiments and it looks like it might just work. ( )
  ndpmcIntosh | Mar 21, 2016 |
In a sense, the dinosaurs never actually died out. Their direct descendants are still all around us today, in the form of birds. In fact, scientifically, birds are dinosaurs, even if, externally at least, they don't look much like the images of dinosaurs most of us hold in our minds. Well, not yet, anyway. But paleontologist Jack Horner has a plan to make that happen. He figures that it should be possible to alter the embryonic development of a bird -- specifically, a chicken -- in such a way as to recreate the development of its dinosaur ancestors, giving it teeth, a long tail, and clawed forelimbs instead of wings. He believes that the process of figuring out how to do this would teach us a lot about dinosaur and bird evolution, provide a useful educational experience for the public, and perhaps yield new medical insights that could be used to prevent birth defects in humans.

This book is about that freaky, fascinating idea of his and how it might be achieved... supposedly. I mean, that's what the title implies it's about, and what the dust jacket says it's about. In reality, he mentions the chickenosaurus in the introduction, and then basically doesn't talk about it again for the next two-thirds of the book, only really going into it at all in the last two chapters. Of the rest of the book, some of it provides some moderately useful scientific background on embryonic development and evolution, and some of it is interesting even if it's not entirely relevant, but a lot of it feels like digression and padding. And not even particularly well-written digression and padding. Ultimately, it seems to me like the subject matter here would have been better served by a long magazine article or two than a book, even a fairly short one like this. And the book would have been better served by being clear about what it wants to give its readers. Because promising that you're going to tell us about turning a chicken into a dinosaur and then instead launching into fifty pages on the history of Montana is about the worst bait and switch ever. ( )
1 vote bragan | Jan 19, 2016 |
This book is a very interesting book about the history and evolution of modern birds, namely the humble chicken. It is also about the history and development of what may be the most fascinating group of animals ever, the dinosaurs. The book covers the question of whether it is possible to create a clone of a dinosaur in the same way it is done in the movies; however maybe it is not a question of cloning, but biological reverse engineering, aka “reverse evolution.” I found the book well written and very convincing. I look forward to seeing where this science leads us. ( )
  Chris177 | Nov 16, 2013 |
The study of dinosaur fossils has reached unprecedented heights and complexity. DNA can be extracted from tiny bits of bone and molecular biology is starting to unlock more and more pieces of the ancient past. Jack Horner, distinguished paleontologist and winner of a MacArthur Genius grant, along with James Gorman, bring together the fields of paleontology, paleobiology, paleobotany (and all the other paleo-s) with modern science to make a case for the creation of a living, breathing dinosaur. How to Build a Dinosaur is a look into the science involved as well as the scientists behind the discoveries leading the way.

Horner and Gorman’s thesis is that a chicken egg or fetus can be successfully manipulated in such a way as to hatch a dinosaur. Genes can be spliced, dormant sequences can be reactivated, and evolutionary changes can be undone. Once all the detritus has cleared, what would be in front of you could nominally be called a dinosaur. Since birds evolved from these ancient lizards, it makes sense to start with them and work backwards. The authors explore the science of evolutionary development to show what it can do and what implications this has on modern species.

I really enjoyed this book. This is science told by someone who is truly passionate about it. He starts with a problem and gathers together better minds to help solve it. Along the way, we hear the back stories of many scientists (and even a few fun anecdotes) about how they learned to love their fields. Granted, there are bits that could be cut to make the book tighter, but I think the rambling bits add color to what would have been a rather rote tour of the field. Horner’s infectious love of paleontology is apparent, and the book is richer for it. An informative and fun read. ( )
1 vote NielsenGW | Oct 2, 2013 |
If paleontologists were musicians, Montana State University’s Jack Horner would be a top-of-the-charts superstar. A consultant on the “Jurassic Park” films and frequently interviewed for documentaries and educational programs on dinosaurs, Horner is perhaps one of the best-known paleontologists among laypeople. Horner has consistently stayed at the forefront of paleontological research and the latest theories about those extinct monsters which have captured the imaginations of millions of schoolchildren. His latest book, “How to Build a Dinosaur,” is the logical extension of much of his earlier work.

Horner begins with a brief overview of the history of paleontology as a science, leading up to recent efforts to marry paleontology and the several branches of biology and genetic sciences, their aims often being mutually beneficial. He discusses recent work being done along those lines, including the study of dinosaur bones at a molecular level and attempts to ascertain whether it is possible to find organic material such as blood cells and collagen inside fossilized bones.

Marshalling his evidence, Horner then moves into the true thrust of his book…the recreation of extinct species using genetic techniques. Far from being a true “Jurassic Park” scenario in which scientists will be able to recover and/or reproduce dinosaur genomes in order to engineer extinct species, Horner instead posits what he believes to be a more realistic method of rewinding evolution’s clock. According to the precepts of a relatively new branch of science known as evolutionary development, or evo-devo for short, it should be possible to alter the development of avian embryos – birds being the evolutionary descendants of dinosaurs – to reconstruct atavistic traits and produce, for example, a chicken with a tail and teeth like a dinosaur’s. While, of course, it is not true that ontology recapitulates phylogeny, Horner argues that it should still be possible to utilize this sort of forced evolutionary regression to discover the specific mechanisms of the development of species. Horner also discusses issues related to the ethics of experimenting on animal embryos and of creating a “chickenosaurus.”

Clear, compulsively readable, and engaging, Horner’s book is certain to appeal to anyone who ( )
1 vote kmaziarz | Dec 6, 2012 |
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Gorman, Jamesmain authorall editionsconfirmed
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Let's suppose you wanted to pick a moment in the history of life and play it over again, backward and forward, like a football play on a highlights DVD, so you could see exactly how it happened. Rewind. Stop. Play. Rewind frame by frame. Stop. Play frame by frame.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0525951040, Hardcover)

A world-renowned paleontologist reveals groundbreaking science that trumps science fiction: how to grow a living dinosaur

Over a decade after Jurassic Park, Jack Horner and his colleagues in molecular biology labs are in the process of building the technology to create a real dinosaur.

Based on new research in evolutionary developmental biology on how a few select cells grow to create arms, legs, eyes, and brains that function together, Jack Horner takes the science a step further in a plan to "reverse evolution" and reveals the awesome, even frightening, power being acquired to recreate the prehistoric past. The key is the dinosaur's genetic code that lives on in modern birds- even chickens. From cutting-edge biology labs to field digs underneath the Montana sun, How to Build a Dinosaur explains and enlightens an awesome new science.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:08 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Jack Horner and his colleagues in molecular biology labs are poised to create a real dinosaur based on the latest breakthroughs - without using prehistoric DNA. The mystery ingredient in this recreation is the genetic code for building dinosaurs that lives on in modern birds.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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