Which of us doesn’t have that inner bit of curiosity about dinosaurs? They seem to be the point where mythology and fact intersect… So dragons are made up, but dinosaurs were real? Woah! It’s like coming across Hogwarts on a walk in the Scottish Highlands.
It was this sense of curiosity that saw me excitedly chewing my lip as I waited for Steve Brusatte to come on and give a talk about these fantastic creatures at the How To Academy. Brusatte had an infectious enthusiasm for his subject and I left the talk brimming with information and clutching my personally signed copy of ‘The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs’.
This book takes you through right from the Permian era when there was just the single land mass of Pangaea to dinosaur extinction, 66 million years ago. Brusatte outlines some of the recent discoveries that paleontologists have made, for example finding out that the early precursors to dinosaurs weren’t just a stepping stone to the dinosaur line. In themselves those ‘dinosaurmorphs’, as he calls them, existed alongside dinosaurs for millions of years. So it’s not as simple as saying that one thing evolved from the other. He also takes you through gradual discoveries, such as the confirmation that birds are directly descended from dinosaurs.
As I mentioned, having seen him speak, I can attest to Brusatte’s energy and enthusiasm for his subject. I was glad to see that this really came through in the book. I have read other books by scientists, historians and suchlike and usually what you find is that they are good at what they do; what they’re not so good at is putting this information into a book in an engaging manner. This doesn’t apply to Brusatte. His joie de vivre (ironic when you consider his subjects are long dead) is palpable on every page.
And how can anyone fail to be enthused when they see facts such as, Titanosaurs weighed in excess of fifty tons – more than a Boeing 737!!! In comparison the heaviest land animal today is an elephant which weighs around five or six tons. This is mind blowing stuff!
At one point I got so over excited with the information about how these huge creatures could possibly survive, that I sent my husband some WhatsApp pictures of four or five pages from the book urging him to read it. I hope I haven’t broken any copyright rules. It was for personal use, very badly photographed and possibly not all read by my husband… Besides I think Brusatte would be delighted that I got so ridiculously excited by dinosaurs that I had to share the dinosaur love there and then. I think he’d be very proud. 😁
As well as the thrilling aspects, there were also some sobering realities in this book. Apparently even after 20 million years on this planet, the evidence is that dinosaurs hadn’t evolved sufficiently to cope with the extremes of temperatures that we had at the equator back then. When you consider that humans have only been around in some form for around 200,000 years we sound like evolutionary babies in comparison.
This leads me to Brusatte’s closing comment. Dinosaurs were around for 150 million years when they found themselves unable to cope with the after effects of an asteroid impact and died out. ‘If it could happen to the dinosaurs, could it also happen to us?’ asks Brusatte. Clearly it’s a possibility, but we have to hope that the one thing we have going for us will save us: our intelligence. Let’s just hope it’s never put to the test. At the time of writing this, I haven’t yet had my morning cup of tea, I don’t know if I’m feeling clever enough to deal with an asteroid impact…
Next week there’s a little change to the usual schedule. I will be taking part in what is known as a ‘blog tour’ – when a new book basically does the rounds on book blogger websites. My scheduled day is Sunday, so I’ll be back with you in six days to tell you what I made of Kiltie Jackson’s, An Artisan Lovestyle.