Posts Tagged ‘Mesozoic’

Brian Switek and Julius Costonyi are some of the best people at what they do. Brian being a passionate writer of things dealing with the field of paleontology and Julius being an absolutely gifted artist. I’ve had the pleasure and honor of meeting both of these gentlemen over the years, as well as working with Brian in the field at the Burpee Museum‘s Utah dig site in 2014. When I found out earlier this year that they had collaborated together on a book I was ecstatic and knew right away that, children’s book or not, it would be something worth picking up. Finally, I was able to get my hands on a copy of Prehistoric Predators!

Now, judging from the cover one might assume that the book may only deal with predators of the Mesozoic- which is not the case at all. This book actually has five chapters: Permian, Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous, and Cenozoic.

The book begins with a great introduction, explaining briefly the history of predatory animals on earth as well as giving us a nice  breakdown of the periods on the right hand side (and when dealing with the Cenozoic it even goes down to the Epochs, a pretty rare and welcomed addition for a children’s book!) All of the periods and epochs have year ranges associated with them so that when you read the rest of the text and, for example, you see that Linheraptor lived between 84 and 75 million years ago you can flip to this key and pin point the period that it would belong to.

This book highlights over 40 different predators, but there are far more animals included in this text (come on, you can’t have a book about predators without including their prey!) Each chapter opens up with a description of what is going on during this time in history- how the earth is changing, what new species are evolving, notable extinctions, etc.

The meat of the book are the species highlights. In general it is laid out like an average guide book to the various species. You get the name, followed by how you pronounce it, the age of the creature, a physical description, and ending with a little “Scientific Bite”- a kind of blurb or random bit of information about the creature. Accompanying the facts of the creatures there is also usually a paragraph describing the illustration on the page: what is happening, and what exactly you are seeing. They also include information on current knowledge about the species you are looking at.

While at first glance you may think that this book is set up like most other children’s dinosaur books, it isn’t. The small picture accompanying discretion tend to offer a lot of valuable information on current research and theories in the field of paleontology. Also another MAJOR inclusion is the fact that all of the highlighted animals have their species name! This is something that is hardly ever in children’s dinosaur books! When I was younger I would have given anything for a book to include the species names. It’s a great addition, and one I’m glad they put in. It’s one of the main things, for me, that really helps separate this book from others like it on the market. They unfortunately don’t include the scientific in the pronunciation part on each fact bubble, but that’s only a minor complaint.

Within each chapter there is a great range of animals from each time period. We obviously are going to get well known animals like Velocriaptor, Spinosaurus, and Tyrannosaurus rex (seriously, it’s pretty much sacrilegious to not include that trifecta now in nearly any dinosaur book.) But there is also a great array of animals not commonly presented. Animals like Eocarcharia, Masiakasaurus, and Guanlong get some really good pages in this book- among many others. Also, Therizinosaurus gets a page in this book- in a “predators” book! I think that’s so awesome. because it’s often not clumped together with theropods because the common thinking is that they are omnivores/mainly herbivores (it was completely skipped in my dinosaur class in college because of that reason.) I don’t know, maybe authors tend to think it’s hard to discribe a theropod that isn’t strickly a carnivore. Not Switek though.  He and Csotonyi present it like a pair of bosses and then continues on with the book. I love the fact that it’s included in this text.

While the information presented is absolutely fantastic, the artwork is the real selling point. Julius Csotonyi’s artwork jumps off the pages at you to give you goosebumps. He presents all of the prehistoric animals in this book with such life that sometimes you swear you’re looking at a photo. All at the same time he’s including current scientific theories about each of these animals as well as his own artistic spin. These images are so detailed that you could spend countless time looking at one of the landscapes and still be catching new details. The images are incredibly dynamic, and full of atmosphere and emotion. The Dimetrodon with a ripped sail. The Suchomimus fishing. The Giganotosaurus. The Deltadromeus. All of these are so rich in how they are presenting individual stories, it’s breathtaking. And good God I need a mural of that Jurassic storm scene with the Allosaurus and Stegosaurus. It’s one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.

While there are no flaws at all in the artwork (or really in this book at all for that matter) I do think it’s interesting to note that on the introduction page we get a great image of a Tyrannosaurus rex. If you turn to page 63 in the book you can see that the same base image was used to make the Daspletosaurus. Not a critique at all, in fact it’s pretty common for this kind of thing to pop up in books. Artwork gets edited, and refined. Besides, T. rex and Daspletosaurus are related and look similar. It’s not like they took a rex and added a sail to it and called it Spinosaurus.

Overall Prehistoric Predators is an incredible book with some great information, and amazing artwork. It lacks a lot of the more graphic scenes you come to expect in a lot of predatory based dinosaur books (even for kids,) and the information is easy to read and comprehend- making it a great book for younger dinosaur enthusiasts. While older paleo-lovers may want a little more on the side of reading and facts, they are sure to be thrilled with what in-depth information is there, the inclusion of some lesser known prehistoric animals, as well as they very inspiring art work.

It’s a great book for ages young and old, and defiantly worth getting at first sight!

Prehistoric Predators is published by Applesauce Press and is available online and in book stores now, with a list price of $19.95.

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Anybody who knows me knows that I have a great love for the Burpee Museum of Natural History in Rockford, IL. The small museum is a great place to learn about natural history as well as present day wildlife, and so much more. It has exhibits that display a wealth of information, and really relays it all to the public in a very down to earth and enjoyable way. They also have a great paleo program, and offer volunteer opportunities to their digs in both Montana and Utah over the summer. I’ve gone on several digs with the Burpee, and over the years have built a really strong relationship with the wonderful team at the museum.

But above all, the number one event that has allowed me to build such a strong and lasting relationship with not only this museum, but other paleontologists around the world, is PaleoFest. For the past seventeen years, the Burpee has been home to an annual conference where some of the leading names in paleontology gather to present on their latest research. It’s a more informal, intimate version of SVP. This year’s PaleoFest is bound to be one of the biggest ones yet rivaling their 2013 Late Cretaceous Symposium. 2015’s PaleoFest is themed “The Beginning of Dinosaurs and the Origin of the Modern World,” and will focus on the Triassic and Jurassic periods of the Mesozoic. Tickets for this event went on sale today so I thought that I should spread the word! Without further adieu, here are my top five reasons why you NEED to attend this years PaleoFest

1.) The Lectures

There are going to be some outstanding lectures this year by some of the leading names in paleontology, including Dr. Mark Goodwin, Dr. Stephen Brusatte, Dr. Hans-Dieter Sues, Dr. Paul Sereno, Dr. Susan Evans, Dr. Matt Bonnan and many many more. Talks will be focused on life in the Triassic and Jurassic periods and the evolution of our earth. The talks given at PaleoFests aren’t just factual, but fun! The key note presentations are also always enjoyable. Accompanied with a delicious dinner that takes place after night one of PaleoFest, guests enjoy the key note lecture. At the end of the event you’ll be up to date on current theories and possibly even potential future research these scientists will be doing. The presenters know how to give a great presentation without it ever being too heavy handed, or dull. You’ll get the facts you want, and have a great time doing it. Learning can be fun!

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2.) The Atmosphere 

The museum is going to be packed, and busy–but you’re going to love it. It’s going to be full of people who love the world of paleontology and natural history just as much as you do! Nobody is out of place here during the two day event. Everyone comes together for a common purpose–to learn from the best! There are going to be plenty of opportunities to talk and discuss ideas and theories with complete strangers who will be just as excited as you are about the topics being presented on. You’ll make new friends which leads me to my 3rd point…

3.) Making Connections

To me, this is the BEST thing about PaleoFest. Unlike SVP, the Burpee offers a more laid back and intimate setting to host its conference. This factor affords you the opportunity to get one on one time with the scientists attending the event. Over the years I have met with and interviewed many scientists at PaleoFest and have kept in contact with a good majority of them! While it may seem intimidating to walk up to top paleontologist, just keep this in mind- they are JUST AS EXCITED about the science as you are! They are ready, willing, and able to answer any questions you have. This opportunity to meet with leading scientists is also a HUGE chance for college students/soon to be college students to meet with these scientists and make connections for possible future college opportunities. When you’re at PaleoFest, don’t just sit on your duff! Go and interact with other visitors as well as the presenters. It will make your experience ten times better than it already was.

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4.) The Exhibits AND Burpee Staff

While PaleoFest is going on the museum is still in full operation, which means between the talks or during breaks you have the chance to roam around and take in some of the Burpee’s amazing exhibits. Along the way, the Burpee team has also placed some interactive stations throughout the museum, where you can have a chance to learn more about the world of paleontology, or current theories on how scientists believe prehistoric creatures lived. There are also small break out sessions for the younger paleo-lovers, where they can learn about the world of the dinosaurs and also have a hand in making different crafts. The Burpee staff are truly a great bunch of people who are passionate about what the they do. The manpower and time put in to events like PaleoFest are testament to that enough! During PaleoFest you’ll often see Burpee team members running around working hard, or giving guided tours throughout the museum.

5.) The Auctions

Last but not least! The auctions that happen at PaleoFest always offer a great opportunity to a.) nab some REALLY cool gear/items b.) have a good laugh. The Burpee’s PaleoFest team, led by Scott Williams, knows how to put on a show and work the crowd. The items up for sale range from high quality paleo-art, to signed books, and even casts of fossils made by the Burpee staff! Ibf bidding wars aren’t “your thing” to join in on, watching the auctions alone is fun in and of itself. Some people really get passionate about wanting those casts and those Estwing rock hammers!

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If you are interested in natural history or paleontology, or even if you are just curious about any of it- PaleoFest is for you!  The even brings in tons of every day people just wanting to know more about the science of paleontology, as well as die hard enthusiasts. The presenters make it all easy to follow and understand, without skimping on any of the material. PaleoFest is an amazing two day event, unlike any other, that will entertain as much as it will inform you about the fascinating would of paleontology.

PaleoFest is March 14th and 15th, 2015

Passes:
One day Pass
Memers: $45
NonMombers: $55
Student (with ID): $45
Two day Pass
Members: $65
NonMembers: $75
Student (with ID): $65

Key Note Dinner and Lecture: 

Burpee Members: $55
General Public: $65

Tickets are available online as well as by calling 815-965-3433

* Find out more about PaleoFest events, and talks as well as the different kids activities by visiting www.burpee.org