Digging for Bird Dinosaurs: An Expedition to Madagascar


The extinction of dinosaurs some sixty-five million years ago is one of the greatest biological catastrophes in the history of our planet. Yet in recent years, paleontologists have turned up increasing evidence that ancestors of one group of dinosaurs still fly among us: birds. Join Cathy Forster, one of the few female paleontologists working today, on an expedition to Madagascar in search of clues to the mystery of bird evolution.

The story of Cathy Forster's ...

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Digging for Bird Dinosaurs: An Expedition to Madagascar

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The extinction of dinosaurs some sixty-five million years ago is one of the greatest biological catastrophes in the history of our planet. Yet in recent years, paleontologists have turned up increasing evidence that ancestors of one group of dinosaurs still fly among us: birds. Join Cathy Forster, one of the few female paleontologists working today, on an expedition to Madagascar in search of clues to the mystery of bird evolution.

The story of Cathy Forster's experiences as a member of a team of paleontologists who went on an expedition to the island of Madagascar in 1998 to search for fossil birds.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Children's Literature
Bishop chronicles a digging expedition in Madagascar with vibrant photos capturing the scientists at work alongside the numerous villagers who support them. Led by paleontologist Cathy Forster, the group digs in a dry riverbed to uncover fossils of turtles, fish, snakes, crocodile, and dinosaurs, many which are new to science. In addition, the discovery of rare hollow bird-like bones and a sickle claw similar to those of Velociraptors proves to belong to a new species, a strong link between dinosaurs and birds. This isn't confirmed until the scientists go to work back in the lab and submit their findings to the computer to compare with other known fossil remains, (a new tool called "Cladistics"). The science detective story has multiple layers--how a dig is conducted; how Forster found her career; the use of modern tools such as the Global Positioning System in the field and Cladistics back in the lab, and the way in which scientists insert themselves into an indigenous community. Discovering that the village lacks a school, this expedition helped raise funds to support one, and an address is provided if readers wish to join the effort. Also included are an index, comparative drawings, and suggestions for further reading. A wonderful addition to books about conducting dinosaur research, careers in science, and an all-around good adventure story. "Scientists in the Field" series. 2000, Houghton Mifflin, Ages 8 to 12, $16.00. Reviewer: Susan Hepler
From The Critics
To many people—not just children—the practice of science seems akin to magic, its wisdom accessible only to the few, its tools and techniques shrouded in mystery. This book, along with its mates in the "Scientists in the Field" series, not only go a long way toward letting some light and air into that musty myth but show that scientists bring hearts as well as brains to their work. Prizewinning nature photographer Nic Bishop follows Cathy Forster, a paleontologist studying birds and their ancestors, to fossil digs in Madagascar where only a few years before, she had identified a new species, Rahonavis—a hawk-sized flier related to Archaeopteryx but armed with vicious, Velociraptor-like claws. As Forster joins a group of scientists in assembling a trove of fossils, some the size of matchsticks, one so huge and heavy that eight men strain to lift it, readers will get a clear sense of how fossils are formed, found, shipped and studied. With his camera, Bishop shows the researchers and their local assistants crouching intently over rocky patches but also looks up from the work at hand to catch a chameleon tiptoeing across the campsite or the faces of a nearby village's children. Though the expedition lasts but a season, it leaves behind a legacy that, if all goes well, will endure: seeing that those children have no school, the expedition's leader opens a fund to provide one, and readers who wish to contribute will find instructions at the end. This book present science as exciting, worthwhile work, and from many young readers will spark a "Hey, I could do that!" reaction. 2000, Houghton Mifflin, $16.00. Ages 10 to 13. Reviewer: John Peters — The Five Owls,September/October 2000 (Vol. 15 No. 1)
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-This attractive photo-essay focuses on Cathy Forster, a specialist in bird fossils, and on a 1998 expedition to the island of Madagascar. Working a fossil "quarry" of animals apparently drowned and deposited during a long-ago deluge, the paleontologists discover an engrossing m lange of pieces of Late Cretaceous creatures, mostly new to science. Fragments of prehistoric snakes, crocodilians, fish, and turtles mix with sauropods, theropods, and birdlike remains. The conversational text follows the team efforts, recorded as well in the crisp full-color photos, showing the scientists at work in their brutally hot, waterless site. It also records the cooperative efforts of hospitable villagers, and includes an appeal to help them build a local school for their children. The book concludes with a surprising find in a chunk of sandstone shipped to the U.S. from a 1995 expedition-the partial skeleton of a bird equipped with a small sickle claw, similar to those previously found only on theropods like Velociraptor. Team this fine title with Miriam Schlein's excellent The Puzzle of the Dinosaur-Birds (Dial, 1996) and Lowell Dingus and Mark Norell's fascinating Searching for Velociraptor (HarperCollins, 1996) and A Nest of Dinosaurs (Doubleday, 1999) and you'll have young dinophiles packing up to join an expedition.-Patricia Manning, formerly at Eastchester Public Library, NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Kirkus Reviews
Readers of this photographic essay join paleontologist Cathy Forster and a team of scientists hunting for bird-dinosaur fossils on the island of Madagascar, off the coast of Africa. The pictures and text show both the drudgery (chipping away at hard rock in 100-degree heat) and the thrill of discovery as the awl hits something hard that's buried underneath. Then the author, an outstanding photographer known for such titles as Red-Eyed Tree Frog (1999), describes how the scientist scrapes away the sandstone to reveal a tiny pink-brown fossil bone. Dinosaur lovers will not find the dramatic big bones of other field trips in this work, but middle school science enthusiasts will learn about "Scientists in the Field," as the series title indicates. Photographs and text show the tools and painstaking processes by which scientists uncover, label, excavate, and prepare fossil finds for further study in laboratories and museums. Other sections provided detailed information about methods used to study and classify fossils in the university laboratory. Forster also gives biographical information, explaining her early love of dinosaurs and her current work as a paleontologist at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. A good look at a contemporary scientist. (list of further reading, index) (Nonfiction. 9-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780618196821
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 3/25/2002
  • Series: Scientists in the Field Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 48
  • Sales rank: 1,051,705
  • Age range: 9 - 11 Years
  • Lexile: 1000L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 11.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.13 (d)

Meet the Author

Nic Bishop, who holds a doctorate in the biological sciences, is an award-winning author and photographer known for his outstanding stop-action wildlife photographs. He lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan, with his wife and a bevy of animals under study.
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