IN THE PAST SEVERAL YEARS the Step Into Reading imprint has released a number of children's books about specific subtopics in dinosaur studies, written by subject experts. Previous works include the paleontologist Robert T. Bakker's Maximum Triceratops, and my own T. rex: Hunter or Scavenger? The most recent of them, and a splendid point of entry for the ten-year-old in all of us, is Dino Dung, an up-to-date book on dinosaur paleontology.
Karen Chin, a paleontologist and the co-author of this newest member of the series, is the leading expert on dinosaur coprolites, or fossilized feces. Karen Carr, the illustrator, is one of the more subdued paleoartists working today. Unlike the images of artists such as Luis V. Rey and Michael W. Skrepnick, Carr's dinosaurs don't seem to be hurrying off somewhere; they're just causally going about the business of contributing to the fossil-fecal record.
Chin and Thom Holmes, a science writer, also tell the tale of how coprolite studies began: how, in the early 1800s, the English vicar and paleontologist William Buckland discovered fossilized hyena dung in Britain, then carried out comparative analyses of fresh droppings from zoo-kept hyenas. Chin and Holmes go on to tell us how feces can be preserved, and what kinds of information can be retrieved from these often-overlooked, and generally underappreciated, leftovers of the ancient world. Chin's presentations at technical conferences are notorious for including at least one bad pun, and she doesn't disappoint her fans here: one chapter is titled, "The Scat with Nine Lives."
May 2005 issue