Dinosaurus: The Complete Guide to Dinosaurs


"Magnificent in its breadth and illustration." ? Booklist

"A well-illustrated large-format book... A good book for a young person who is curious about dinosaurs." ? Choice

No other life-form captures the imagination and attention like dinosaurs. Organized by the major dinosaur families, Dinosaurus identifies 500 species creature by creature, from the voracious flesh-eaters to the egg-stealers to the ...

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"Magnificent in its breadth and illustration." — Booklist

"A well-illustrated large-format book... A good book for a young person who is curious about dinosaurs." — Choice

No other life-form captures the imagination and attention like dinosaurs. Organized by the major dinosaur families, Dinosaurus identifies 500 species creature by creature, from the voracious flesh-eaters to the egg-stealers to the vegetarians, detailing what they looked like, what they ate and how they fought, lived and died.

All this information is dramatically presented and exciting to read, with features such as:

  • At-a-glance fact files
  • Concise explanations of known traits and habits of each dinosaur species
  • Vivid full-color illustrations
  • Latin name, translation and pronunciation
  • Adult length and weight
  • Height specifics and comparison to humans
  • Diet and habitat
  • Global distribution.

Dinosaurus also challenges and discredits some long-popular myths and legends. For example, this guide shows that:

  • The dinosaur known as brontosaurus never existed
  • Tyrannosaurus was not the biggest meat-eater of all time
  • Flying dinosaurs were not simply feeble gliders
  • Sea dinosaurs could not out-swim today's fastest fish.

Brimming with the research from digs in North America, Mongolia, Europe, China and elsewhere, Dinosaurus is comprehensive,
innovative and as compelling and exciting as the dinosaurs themselves.

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Editorial Reviews

Weighing in with a hefty number of pages, this single volume is promoted as a complete guide, and perhaps it is just that. Providing more in-depth information than average dinosaur texts, this work is intended for advanced secondary students. The arrangement of chapters such as "Great Predators," "Boneheads," and "Horned Dinosaurs" makes locating specific dinosaurs a hit-or-miss adventure without using the table of contents or index. Once a certain species is located, abundant information is available, including a half page of text, a picture, and a "Dino Factfile" listing the dinosaur's name, the meaning of the name, pronunciation, the animal's diet, and its estimated length and weight. What separates this book from other dinosaur guides are sections that dispel dinosaur myths, explain the question of mass extinction, and outline the evolutionary process, including human development. The easy-to-use time line alleviates students' frustration of trying to organize pre-recorded history. Young adult librarians are sure to welcome any additional source on evolution, a challenging report topic. Living up to its billing, this book also has maps indicating where fossils have been located (identified by color according to the discovery), a list of museums that display dinosaurs (with contact information, including Web sites), and a commentary about rebuilding dinosaur skeletons. The high price tag might cause school librarians to pass on this outstanding work, but it is a must-have source for libraries where dinosaur study is an annual research unit. VOYA Codes: 5Q 4P M J S A/YA (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8;Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult-marketed book recommended for Young Adults). 2003, Firefly, 448p.; Glossary. Index. Illus. Photos. Maps. Charts. Source Notes. Chronology. Appendix., Ages 11 to Adult.
—Rollie Welch
Children's Literature
This book is subtitled "the complete guide to dinosaurs" which humbly says it all. Identifying 500 species of dinosaurs, this great big book will educate, fascinate and inspire its readers. The introduction could stand alone as a small book; it discusses evolution, fossils, the finding, dating, recovering and rebuilding of the fossils. Being provided with a solid base from which to appreciate the facts is essential. Commonly held myths and legends are clarified. For example, Tyrannosaurus was never the world's largest consumer of meat—today's sperm whale is much bigger and the prehistoric sea creature Liopleurodon was also a contender! While Tyrannosaurus held the record as largest known land based meat eater for about 90 years, the discovery of the skeleton of an even greater predator called Giganotosaurus in Argentina in 1994 disproved this theory. Fifteen chapters then follow, organized by major dinosaur families (such as the boneheads, bird-foot dinosaurs, the giants). Two really outstanding aspects of the book include the illustrations and pictures and a "factfile" for each dinosaur. The illustrations are superb, from the colors to the setting to the placement on the page. The "factfiles" give the Latin name of the dinosaur, its meaning and pronunciation, when it lived, its size (height and weight) what it ate and where its fossils have been discovered. Maps of our present day world with how the world was situated superimposed upon it according to the era in which that particular dinosaur lived are useful. Accompanying text offers rich details in an easily readable manner. Younger children will view this as a picture book while older ones will revel in the text based material.Highly recommended. The author has worked at the Natural History Museum in London for many years and is a Scientific Fellow of the Zoological Society. He has written more than 100 books for children, including Dinosaur! and the Practical Paleontologist. 2003, Firefly Books, Ages 10 up.
— Cindy L. Carolan
Library Journal
Why buy yet another book about dinosaurs? In this case, for the pictures. The dinosaurs in this encyclopedia are remarkably lifelike creatures. Their elephantine skin seems to stretch over real muscles as they strut like birds or charge like rhinoceroses. Some have whiplike tails, knifelike claws, feathers, or weird horns sprouting from all parts of their bodies. They are fancifully painted in colors ranging from rattlesnake earth tones to vivid gila monster hues. The full-color computer-generated illustrations are by various artists identified in picture credits, and the accessible, nontechnical text is by Parker, author of over 100 books for young people and amateur scientists, including The Practical Paleontologist and The Encyclopedia of Sharks. Most of the book consists of a directory covering some 500 dinosaurs arranged by major families. Each entry includes an ingenious "factfile" diagram that shows how big the particular animal was compared with a human, where the drifting continents were when it was alive, and where its fossil remains were found. With neither a bibliography nor a list of references, this encyclopedia is far less scholarly than a work like The Complete Dinosaur, edited by James Farlow and M.K. Brett-Surman. It is thus appropriate for children and adults who are curious about dinosaurs but not that curious. Recommended for public libraries. [A Discovery Book Club selection.]-Amy Brunvand, Univ. of Utah Lib., Salt Lake City Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
St Paul Pioneer Press - Mary Ann Grossmann
If you're serious about dinos, this is the book for you... the paintings of the creatures in motion are riveting (and sometimes a little scary).
Seattle Times - Mary Ann Gwinn
Attractive drawings, well-designed graphic snapshots and accessible language.
Winnipeg Free Press - Tom Oleson
The subtitle — The Complete Guide to Dinosaurs — is no lie... information and illustrations and reconstructions of everything.
Louisville Courier-Journal - Keith Runyon
Comprehensive, well-organized and cleverly illustrated... lively account of the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth.
Princeton Times of Trenton
Nice little factoids make this a winner... A great timeline from 540 million years ago to the present is fun.
Edmonton Journal - Marc Horton
Lavishly illustrated, this hefty book proves again why dinosaurs are so enduringly fascinating to so many.
Sacramento Bee - Bruce Dancis
Informative and fun.
Canadian Press - Kim Covert
Not only lists and illustrates 700 known dinosaur species, but also puts dinosaurs into context.
Science News
Large, vivid illustrations grace every page and accompany data indicating how dinosaurs lived, what they ate, how big they were, where they roamed, and when they lived.
Resource Links - Brenda Dillon
If you're interested in dinosaurs, you'll love Dinosaurus!
CM Magazine - Gail Hamilton
Comprehensive in scope... Filled with abundance of information... An attractive and consistent layout contributes to the book's appeal as does the plethora of fabulous illustrations... An excellent reference book.
Globe and Mail
Lavishly illustrated overview of the most interesting of these creatures... the latest scientific theories.
Science and Children - Jacqueline Pfeiffer
Written by an expert who can't help but convey his enthusiasm... an excellent resource... I would highly recommend this book, especially as a library resource.
E-Streams - Linda R. Zellmer
Liberally illustrated and much more comprehensive than other recent dinosaur books.
Booklist / RBB
Magnificent in its breadth and illustration. Arrangement is by group, and 500 dinosaurs are described.
Choice - P.K. Strother
A well-illustrated, large-format book... a good book for a young person who is curious about dinosaurs.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781554074754
  • Publisher: Firefly Books, Limited
  • Publication date: 10/1/2009
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 248,722
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 11.88 (w) x 7.76 (h) x 1.22 (d)

Meet the Author

Steve Parker is a scientific fellow of the Zoological Society and is the author of The Encyclopedia of Sharks.

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Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Chapter One Early Life
Chapter Two Conquerors of the Land
Chapter Three The First Dinosaurs
Chapter Four The Small Meat-eaters
Chapter Five The Great Predators
Chapter Six Ostrich Dinosaurs
Chapter Seven The Giants
Chapter Eight Bird-foot Dinosaurs
Chapter Nine The Duckbills
Chapter Ten The Boneheads
Chapter Eleven Armored Dinosaurs
Chapter Twelve Plated Dinosaurs
Thirteen Horned Dinosaurs
Chapter Fourteen Other Creatures of the Dinosaur Age
Chapter Fifteen After the Dinosaurs

Main Fossil Sites
Where to see dinosaurs
Picture credits and Acknowledgements

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Almost everyone is interested in dinosaurs at some point in his or her life — be it at the age of five or 95. Even the great fact and fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke traces his early interest in science to dinosaurs, recalling that his first exposure to these "saurians" as a boy in rural England was a series of cards his father gave him.

Why the great interest in this long-gone group? What is it about dinosaurs that has drawn our attention so intensely for so long? Maybe it has been simply because some dinosaurs are big, and nasty and, more importantly — extinct! Perhaps this ongoing infatuation is that there are so many different kinds of dinosaur.

Most of the well-known dinosaurs are from either North America, typically the west (Wyoming, Montana and Alberta), or Eurasia, for example Mongolia. More recent finds in South America, Australia, Antarctica and Alaska are not so widely known, but it will not be long before younger generations are picking their way through such new discoveries for themselves.

The latest finds of bigger and smaller dinosaurs in places like Argentina, and of a range of small but varied polar dinosaurs have combined with studies showing that many dinosaurs were anything but big, slow moving and dimwitted, to change common perceptions of this very successful group. We now know that some dinosaurs had feathers and were at least gliding if not flying. Furthermore the discovery of a variety of tough little critters that lived near the North and South Poles, suggests that some of these dinosaurs must have been warm-blooded to deal with such severe conditions.

What has made dinosaurs even more interesting in recent years are the many studies that have centered on the companions of these creatures and the environments in which they lived during the Mesozoic Era. Current research focuses on why so many of these otherwise successful animals were nearly wiped out 65 million years ago and on how they evolved from reptilian ancestors in the first place. The result, as shown here, is an extensive resource on the world in which dinosaurs prospered — and died — with as much detail on the ancient habitat as on the inhabitants themselves.

Dinosaurus cannot hope to include every known dinosaur — we would need a small library for that — but it certainly offers excellent coverage of many of the creatures that existed, their environment and contemporaries. Many of the newest dinosaurs get a mention too, giving enthusiasts a much broader understanding of the dinosaur system as a whole.

Professor Patricia Vickers Rich
Chair in Palaeontology,
Monash University
Founding Director,
Monash Science Centre,

Dr Thomas H. Rich
Vertebrate Palaeontology
Museum Victoria
Melbourne, Victoria

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Excerpted from the


When dealing with dinosaurs, there is perhaps only one certainty: the "facts" will change. Of course, the lives of the dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals in this book cannot be altered. That world is long gone. What does change is our interpretation of how dinosaurs lived and died. Almost every week, new discoveries are announced. Debates and disagreements occur, old ideas are revived, and new ideas are challenged. Perhaps once a year, a fresh fossil find or a new theory of prehistory catches the public imagination. These newsworthy events tend to focus on which was the biggest or the fiercest of dinosaurs, which came first, and how their extinction is explained. It is the progress in our knowledge of these ancient animals that makes their study so exciting and enduring.

Dinosaurs in Perspective

A number of kinds, or species, of animals, plants and other living things in existence today likely exceeds 10 million. Insects are the vast majority. Some of the other main groups of invertebrates (animals without backbones) include around 100,000 species of slugs, snails, octopuses, mussels and other molluscs; 40,000 species of crabs, prawns, lobsters and other crustaceans; and 10,000 species of the simplest of all animals, sponges. Prehistoric versions of all these groups are shown in this book. Among the vertebrates, fish are by far the most species rich group, at 25,000, followed by some 9,000 species of birds, 7,000 reptile species and 5,000 types of amphibians. Our own group, the mammals, trails behind, with around 4,500 species. Overall, close to two million living species from all groups,including plants, have been described, named, and catalogued by scientists. Yet more than 99 out of every 100 kinds of living things that have ever existed are no longer around. They form a vast array of life forms that have appeared and then disappeared on our planet.

Within this array, scientists have listed several hundred types of dinosaurs. Each of these is a genus (plural, genera) containing one or more very closely related species. For example, Tyrannosaurus, "tyrant reptile," is a genus of huge meat-eaters from very late in the dinosaur age, about 70-65 million years ago. The best-known species is Tyrannosaurus rex, "king tyrant reptile." The differences between dinosaur species within the same genus are often complex and are much debated, depending on interpretation of tiny details on the fossils. This book describes principally genera of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures, with a few excursions to the level of species to illustrate certain points.

The classification of some 400 genera of dinosaurs, and of several species within many of these genera, is a terrific achievement in relation to a group of animals known only from fossils. The fossil record is very scarce, patchy and fragmentary. The chances are that it shows us only a few kinds of dinosaurs that existed. The numbers and varieties of dinosaurs we do know about give some idea of the dominance they achieved over other forms of land life. Their fossils accumulated over a span of more than 160 million years.


In one sense, "evolution" simply means change. Living things have changed since they began, as shown by evidence from the fossil record. Types of plants and creatures appeared, flourished for a time, and then faded away. The bird called the passenger pigeon teemed in the millions in North America before European settlers arrived, but was slaughtered into oblivion by the early 20th century. The dodo, the quagga (a hoofed animal resembling a horses or zebra) and aurochs (ancestor of today's cattle) all died out within the past millennium. And all of these recent changes have been due to "unnatural" interference by humans in the natural world. But all through Earth's history, such disappearances, or extinctions have occurred on a regular basis. There is a turnover of species today, as there has been since life began.

Farther back in time, during the Age of Dinosaurs, the same changes occurred. They were due to the pressures of living -- finding food, escaping predators, sheltering from the elements, competing for a breeding partner and generally struggling to survive. If every offspring of every living thing survived, the world would soon have become impossibly crowded. No animal had a life free from hardships or interference. Natural forces or pressures, such as trying to get food or avoid a hunter, meant that some living things died out. The survivors were, in effect, those left after selection by nature's pressures -- which is what scientists mean by "natural selection."

What determined whether a living thing survived the struggle for existence? In part, the genetic "instructions," in the form of the chemical DNA, for bodily features or characteristics. Genes are inherited from parents. The way that reproduction works means that genes sometimes undergo change (mutation) or come together in different combinations (recombination) in different individuals. These are regular occurrences, and the result is that offspring vary from their parents and from each other. These variations may be small, but can be enough to tip the balance in the trial of survival. Useful features or characteristics mean that an individual is more likely to survive and breed, passing on its genes to its offspring by the process of inheritance.

Through prehistory, dinosaurs and other living things were subjected to the pressures of natural selection. If the environment had remained constant for all this time, then perhaps the dinosaurs, and life in general, would have reached a steady state of equilibrium. Conditions, however, have always changed. Climates have fluctuated, temperatures have varied, sea levels have gone up and down. Living things responded to the alterations by evolving. As they did so, living things were also part of the environment in relation to each other, causing further changes to evolve. Sometimes, evolution happened slowly and gradually, over millions of years. At other times, it occurred relatively quickly, followed by a long period of relative stability, which is known as "punctuated equilibrium" -- evolution by "jumps."

Evolutionary history is sometimes imagined as a "tree of life." There were one or two types of life early on, gradually giving rise to more and more different kinds, and so on. The end points or "twig-tips" are animals and plants alive today. However and untidy "hedge of life" might be more apt, since some species died out as others arose. Apart from life's earliest stages, there has always appeared to be great diversity and abundance.


The principal evidence for the existence of dinosaurs and other long-gone living things comes from fossils. These are the remains of organisms, or the traces they left, which have been preserved, usually in the form of rock. The phrase "bone to stone" sums up how a fossil forms, although not only bones have been preserved, and not all fossils are in the form of stony minerals. Also, the process of fossilization is long and beset by chance events. The fossil record in the rocks, and the story it tells of life on Earth, should therefore be approached with caution.

An old dinosaur lies down on a riverbank and dies. Then the river floods and, as the water subsides they leave a thick layer of sandy sediment that covers the animal's body. The fleshy parts of the dinosaur, such as its muscles and guts, rot away slowly. The harder parts, such as the bones, teeth, claws, and horns, are more resistant to decay. Through time, the sand is buried deeper as more layers accumulate on top. The pressure and temperature of the layers rise with increasing depth. The originally loose sand is gradually compressed and cemented by rock minerals, to become hard sandstone. The minerals seep into the dinosaur's bones, and other hard parts, too, and turn them into stone, while preserving their original shape.

Meanwhile, millions of years pass. Great earth movements lift and tilt the rocks, so that they are no longer built up but worn down. Natural forces of erosion -- the sun's heat by day, cold winds by night, rain, hail, frost and ice -- crack and split the overlying layers. One day, the erosion reaches the layer with the dinosaur's remains, or fossils. These are exposed to view just as a paleontologist walks past.

The above story may seem unlikely -- and it is. In fact, the vast majority of dinosaurs that ever lived did not form fossils. Their remains were crunched up by scavengers, or rotted away, or disintegrated in wind and rain. Vast numbers of the remains that did become fossilized did not last very long. They and their rocks were buried so deep in the Earth that they melted, destroying all traces of fossil shape and form. Many fossils that exist today are still deep in the Earth, far out of reach of our eyes or drills. It follows that the chances of a single dinosaur leaving any preserved remains at all must be millions to one.

Not only dinosaurs left fossils. Most living things, including animals, plants and even microbes, are represented in the fossil record. The great majority of preservations are hard parts, such as bones, teeth, claws, horns, shells, wood, leaf-ribs, seeds or cones. Because fossils tended to form when sand, mud or similar sediment quickly covers remains, protecting and slowing their disintegration, the greatest number are from marine animals that died and sank into the ooze on the seabed. As a result, the shells of crustaceans, such as trilobites, and of molluscs, such as ammonites, abound as fossils. Also, not only body parts were preserved. Eggshells, excavated nests and burrows, footprints, scratch marks, furrow-like tail-drags and even droppings or dung all left signs, known as "trace fossils." Much rarer are fossils of softer body parts, such as skin and flesh, which need exceptional conditions to be preserved (see page 23).

Finding Fossils

Fossils of dinosaurs and other prehistoric life forms are coming to light everyday, at thousands of sites around the world. However, usually no one is there to recognize their significance. Expectant fossil-finders can search and monitor only a tiny fraction of the places where preserved remains of prehistoric life become visible. A key requirement for such sites is suitable types of rocks at or near the surface.

Because of the in which fossils are formed, only the types of rocks called sedimentary rocks contain them. These include sandstone, siltstone, mudstone, clay, chalk and limestone. They are made of tiny particles, sediments, which once drifted and sank in water or were blown by the wind on land. The sediments settled in layers, were gradually buried deeper and eventually compacted and cemented into rock, with their fossils inside (see previous page). The two other major groups of rocks, igneous and metamorphic, hardly ever harbor fossils. Their formation includes massive pressures and great temperatures, which destroy any preserved remains they might initially contain, so vast areas of granite, basalt and other non-sedimentary rocks are of little interest to fossil-hunters. Also, many suitable fossil-bearing rocks are covered by soil and vegetation, such as woods, forest and grasslands, and so are hidden from the fossil-hunter's scrutiny.

To find fossils from a certain age, such as dinosaur remains from the Mesozoic era, the rocks must have been formed during that age. This greatly narrows down the choice of sites. Geological maps for large parts of the world's surface are produced by geologists, especially those prospecting for minerals and other resources such as coal, petroleum (oil) and metal ores. These maps are invaluable for paleontologists, who often work along side geologists in surveying teams. The maps show the types and approximate ages of the uppermost layers of rocks. However, much of the globe's land surface remains to be mapped in detail. Modern fossil-hunters are also helped enormously by aerial surveys and various types of photography from planes and satellites, including both normal visible light photographs and also images made from infrared, ultraviolet and other types of rays. These can identify potential sites in very remote areas that have been overlooked so far.

Many of the regions that contain the world's most famous fossil sites, such as the Gobi in Mongolia or parts of the midwestern USA, are "badlands." They are harsh landscapes where the rocks are exposed at the surface, and are continually worn away by the extremes of the elements. Hot daytime sun followed by chilled or freezing nights, and the occasional flood or sandstorm, crack and erode stone so that fresh layers are always being exposed. Soil is either blown or washed away, so few plants grow, and the rocks stay bare. Other excellent sites are along rocky coasts, lakeshores or riverbanks, where waves, wind and rain eat away at the cliffs or outcrops, and rockfalls regularly expose new formations. In mines, quarries, cuttings for roads and railways, and major construction projects such as dams, machines cause erosion. Such sites are regularly visited by fossil-hunters searching for newly revealed and interesting-looking remains.

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