ARTICLES: Disciplining and Popularizing: Evolution and its Publics from the Modern Synthesis to the Present

The journal Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences has a set of articles in its March 2014 issue that all stem from a conference session for the History of Science Society in 2012:

Disciplining and popularizing: Evolution and its publics from the modern synthesis to the present (Introduction)
Vassiliki Betty Smocovitis

Darwin’s foil: The evolving uses of William Paley’s Natural Theology 1802–2005
Adam R. Shapiro

Making the case for orthogenesis: The popularization of definitely directed evolution (1890–1926)
Mark A. Ulett

Paleontology at the “high table”? Popularization and disciplinary status in recent paleontology
David Sepkoski

Claiming Darwin: Stephen Jay Gould in contests over evolutionary orthodoxy and public perception, 1977–2002
Myrna Perez Sheldon

BOOK REVIEW: Plesiosaur Peril

About a year ago I posted about two children’s books that combine interesting stories, beautiful illustrations, and factual information about dinosaurs and other extinct animals: Ankylosaur Attack and Pterosaur Trouble. Moving on to another group of extinct reptile, Daniel Loxton rounds out this trilogy in the Tales of Prehistoric Life series: Plesiosaur Peril (Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press, 2014, 32 pp.).

Plesiosaur Peril

Again combining beautiful digital illustrations with landscape photography (or should I say, seascape photography) by Loxton and Jim W.W. Smith, this book recounts the “day in the life” of a family of ocean-dwelling Cryptoclidus as they evade the hungry jaws of a much larger plesiosaur, Liopleurodon. Young readers will enjoy the action, while parents will appreciate the theme of family bonds. Educators will enjoy the current paleontological information (paleontologist Darren Naish was a consultant, and he posted on his blog a lot of information about plesiosaurs and the process of working on the book), while everyone will enjoy the beautiful rendering of plesiosaurs, ammonites, ichthyosaurs, and belemnites (squid-like creatures). This trilogy is perfect for science-minded kids, and would be great set of books to have on elementary school library shelves.

Spread from Plesiosaur Peril, from Kids Can Press. Art by Daniel Loxton with Jim W.W. Smith. All rights reserved.

Spread from Plesiosaur Peril, from Kids Can Press. Art by Daniel Loxton with Jim W.W. Smith. All rights reserved.

Spread from Plesiosaur Peril, from Kids Can Press. Art by Daniel Loxton with Jim W.W. Smith. All rights reserved.

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Big Golden Book of Dinosaurs

I’ve posted before about a some great books about prehistoric creatures. For adults, there’s The Complete Dinosaur and Pterosaurs (reviews here and here). For kids, I reviewed Ankylosaur Attack and Pterosaur Trouble (here). Add to these a new book:

Robert T. Bakker, The Big Golden Book of Dinosaurs (New York, NY: Random House Children’s Books, 2013), 64 pp. Illustrated by Luis Rey.

Dinosaurs. No other creatures are more exciting – or mysterious. Some were as big as tow dozen elephants duct-taped together. Others were as tiny as kittens. Some had jaws so strong they could bite through a school bus. There were even dinosaurs that could fly. Join renowned paleontologist Dr. Robert T. Bakker on a safari through time and watch the evolution of dinosaurs and the animals that lived beside them – including our own distant ancestors! With stops along the way to look at monster bugs, ferocious fin-backs, fluffy dinosaurs, sea monsters, and much more, this is a journey readers will never forget!

Many current paleontologists had as children the 1960 book, Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Reptiles (A Giant Golden Book), by Jane Werner Watson and illustrated by Rudolph Zallinger (whose mural of dinosaurs at the Yale Peabody Museum remains a classic piece of paleo art). But our understanding of the lives of dinosaurs has changed dramatically over the last half-century. So, this new edition is a remake, intended to update young readers on the science of dinosaur paleontology. Luis Rey posted on his blog a comparison of the covers, old and new:

BigGBofDinosB2

From swamp-dwelling to self-supporting sauropods to feathered theropods, this book covers the entire span of dinosaur time, from the rise of dinosaurs from their reptilian ancestors to their extinction. Toward the end of the book, a very neat tree of life shows where dinosaurs and humans both fit in the evolution of life, stressing that without the demise of dinosaurs, we would not have evolved. Pterosaurs and sea-going reptiles are included, too, as well as a section on the history of the discovery of dinosaurs and changes in the field over the last two centuries. Bakker’s text is active and appropraite for a younger audience, and Luis Rey’s artwork, a combination of traditional paintings and digital illustration, is vibrant, action-packed, and wonderfully brings to life these exciting and mysterious creatures. I highly recommend The Big Golden Book of Dinosaurs not only for younger readers, but adults as well!

Subscription service for new evolution toys: would you sign up?

Palm Kids is seeking interest for a subscription for a new series of evolution toys. Working on this is biologist Kate Miller, who designed and sold the Charlie’s Playhouse Giant Evolution Timeline, which we’re very fond of. The new toys are 2-in-1 Evolvems, critters that evolve into another by reversing them – a transitional plush! Here’s a bunch of info regarding the new toys, and be sure to click on the image if you’re interested. There would be a free first shipment, and then a monthly shipment that you’d pay for, which can be cancelled at any time. I think it’s a great idea for introducing evolution and paleontology to children and keeping it fresh and exciting.

Evolution B   Palm Kids

Updates will be posted at Evolution for Kids!

BOOK: Pterosaurs

Ever since I first saw this pterosaur illustration, my perception of these Mesozoic flying reptiles was changed from how I viewed them since childhood. They were not just rulers of the sky, but suitably adapted to getting around on land.

Palaeoart - markwittonThe illustration above is from Mark Witton, pictured at left, a paleontologist and paleoartist. He has just published a beautifully constructed guide to pterosaurs: Pterosaurs: Natural History, Evolution, Anatomy.

For 150 million years, the skies didn’t belong to birds–they belonged to the pterosaurs. These flying reptiles, which include the pterodactyls, shared the world with the nonavian dinosaurs until their extinction 65 million years ago. Some pterosaurs, such as the giant azhdarchids, were the largest flying animals of all time, with wingspans exceeding thirty feet and standing heights comparable to modern giraffes. This richly illustrated book takes an unprecedented look at these astonishing creatures, presenting the latest findings on their anatomy, ecology, and extinction.

Pterosaurs features some 200 stunning illustrations, including original paintings by Mark Witton and photos of rarely seen fossils. After decades of mystery, paleontologists have finally begun to understand how pterosaurs are related to other reptiles, how they functioned as living animals, and, despite dwarfing all other flying animals, how they managed to become airborne. Here you can explore the fossil evidence of pterosaur behavior and ecology, learn about the skeletal and soft-tissue anatomy of pterosaurs, and consider the newest theories about their cryptic origins. This one-of-a-kind book covers the discovery history, paleobiogeography, anatomy, and behaviors of more than 130 species of pterosaur, and also discusses their demise at the end of the Mesozoic.

Pterosaurs: Natural History, Evolution, Anatomy will go nicely next to The Complete Dinosaur (Life of the Past). Brian Switek reviewed it in The Great Pterosaur Makeover, the publisher offers some free sneak beak – I mean peek – into the book here, and at his blog Witton shares a little about his book.

BOOK REVIEW: Ankylosaur Attack and Pterosaur Trouble

In a previous post today, I shared a new book that is described as instilling in the reader a “childlike sense of wonder” about dinosaurs. While My Beloved Brontosaurus is for older readers, there is a new series of children’s books about those ancient creatures. Written by Daniel Loxton (Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be) and illustrated by Loxton and W.W. Smith, the Tales of Prehistoric Life series is sure to delight young dinosaur fans and, a more hopeful goal, to create new ones. The first in the series, Ankylosaur Attack (Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press, 2011, 32 pp.), follows an Ankylosaurus (the iconic “armored” dinosaur of North America) one morning as he searches for food in his habitat, experiences a grumpy older individual of his own species, watches pterosaurs in the sky, and defends himself – with a little help – against a fierce Tyrannosaurus rex.

Ankylosaur Attack

The narrative is simple, yet through it comes out a lot of what it must have been like to live millions of years ago. On the final page, Loxton gives extra information about the dinosaur species highlighted in the story. Subtle but right there at the beginning just might be the most important sentence in the book: “It was a morning long, long ago – millions of years before humans walked the Earth.” The illustrations in the book are beautiful, looking almost like photographs. Of course, they are not, since Loxton tells us this story is happening long before humans appeared on Earth. They are digital illustrations superimposed on landscape photography.

Spread of Ankylosaur Attack

Photo-realistic images perhaps serve to reinforce to readers that these animals did in fact exist and live on our planet. They are not fictional and simply an artist’s imagination, although some guess work has to be made to flesh out dinosaurs.

Ankylosaur-Attack-correction-comparison-2

Dinosaurs were real, and the illustrations show kids what paleontologists thought they looked like and how they behaved. Loxton had expert advice from paleontologists Kenneth Carpenter and Donald Prothero, so the information is accurate and up-to-date.

Spread of Ankylosaur Attack

The second in the Tales of Prehistoric Life series was just published. Pterosaur Trouble (Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press, 2013, 32 pp.) likewise follows an individual animal.

Pterosaur Trouble

This time, it is not a dinosaur, but another critter from the Mesozoic Era, Quetzalcoatlus. This is another “day in the life” story, also featuring Triceratops and a pack of Saurornitholestes hell bent on having some pterosaur meat for breakfast.

Spread of Pterosaur Trouble

Spread of Pterosaur Trouble

Spread of Pterosaur Trouble

Loxton got paleontologist Darren Naish, an authority on pterosaur fossils, to provide advice for Pterosaur Trouble. And the book includes the same, if not better, digital illustrations as Ankylosaur Attack. I certainly hope Loxton and his publisher continue this series. I came to be interested in Darwin, evolution, and the history of science through a love of paleontology (sparked by Jurassic Park). Keeping my young son engaged in thinking about the history of life on earth not only occurs through visiting museums, providing him with scientifically-accurate dinosaur toys, and watching a variety of science programming online, but through reading books. And anyone familiar with children’s books about dinosaurs knows, some shine and others lack with regard to keeping up to date with dinosaur paleontology. The Tales of Prehistoric Life series shines brightly. All images, except the one below, are from Kids Can Press website.

IMG_3731

BOOK: My Beloved Brontosaurus

Two and a half years ago I posted a review of a new book – his first – from science blogger Brian Switek (Written in Stone: Evolution, the Fossil Record, and Our Place in Nature). While his blog Laelaps has moved around a bit (now at National Geographic), he’s still my go to source for analysis for new studies in paleontology. I am happy to share that Brian has published a second book:

My Beloved Brontosaurus: On the Road with Old Bones, New Science, and Our Favorite Dinosaurs, by Brian Switek (New York: Scientific American, 2013), 272 pp.

Dinosaurs, with their awe-inspiring size, terrifying claws and teeth, and otherworldly abilities, occupy a sacred place in our childhoods. They loom over museum halls, thunder through movies, and are a fundamental part of our collective imagination. In My Beloved Brontosaurus, the dinosaur fanatic Brian Switek enriches the childlike sense of wonder these amazing creatures instill in us. Investigating the latest discoveries in paleontology, he breathes new life into old bones.

Switek reunites us with these mysterious creatures as he visits desolate excavation sites and hallowed museum vaults, exploring everything from the sex life of Apatosaurus and T. rex’s feather-laden body to just why dinosaurs vanished. (And of course, on his journey, he celebrates the book’s titular hero, “Brontosaurus”—who suffered a second extinction when we learned he never existed at all—as a symbol of scientific progress.)

With infectious enthusiasm, Switek questions what we’ve long held to be true about these beasts, weaving in stories from his obsession with dinosaurs, which started when he was just knee-high to a Stegosaurus. Endearing, surprising, and essential to our understanding of our own evolution and our place on Earth, My Beloved Brontosaurus is a book that dinosaur fans and anyone interested in scientific progress will cherish for years to come.

Read can read some reviews from Chad Orzel and scicurious, read pieces by Brian about the book at Slate and io9, read chapter 7 “Birds with Feathers” in a free excerpt from the NCSE, or listen to Brian read an excerpt:

Brian will be at Powell’s City of Books in Portland, OR on May 22, 7:30pm (info). I look forward to attending his book talk with my son, who, like Brian and myself, loves dinosaurs.